China may be preparing to take military action against Hong Kong as Chinese paramilitary forces have assembled only 18 miles from Hong Kong in the city of Shenzhen on Tuesday.
Video on Chinese state media showed troop carrier vehicles traveling to the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center near the Hong Kong border in preparation for military exercises amid Hong Kong’s public crisis of ongoing large scale protests, the Independent reported Tuesday.
Alexandre Krauss, a policy advisor for the EU’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, said the military presence indicated that “something extraordinarily bad is about to happen.'”
Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday that the city had been placed on a “path of no return” after 10 weeks of increasingly disruptive protests.
As on Monday, flights again were canceled Tuesday at the airport in Hong Kong as thousands of demonstrators filled the main terminal despite increased security measures, reported the New York Times.
“Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at Soas University of London, said that despite repeated shows of force, ‘We are still some distance from [Chinese] security forces being deployed in Hong Kong. But it is much closer today than a month ago.’”
The Real Issue
Although the current demonstrations by Hong Kong’s people began in June in response to the introduction of a bill that would allow the extradition of Hong Kong citizens to mainland China for prosecution, rivers of discontent were already flowing beneath Hong Kong’s surface for years.
The initial opposition to the extradition bill – which has been rescinded for now – have morphed into a full set of demands by Hong Kong protesters. They have voiced a desire for free elections, affordable housing and a host of other requests that they say have gone unheard by the governments of both Hong Kong and Beijing.
Michael C. Davis, a global fellow at the Wilson Center, a think tank in Washington, said that if pushed, Hong Kong’s citizens will push back.
“They kind of try to rule Hong Kong the way they rule China. That doesn’t really work in an open society,” said Davis. “In Hong Kong, when you push people, when you repress them, when you ignore them — they push back.”
Sources said that the uprisings in Hong Kong are a direct challenge to China’s Communist Party and President Xi Jinping.
“It is now a ‘life-or-death’ fight for the very future of Hong Kong,” Wang Zhimin, the head of the central government’s office in the city, warned members of Hong Kong’s establishment last week. “There is no room for retreat.”
In addition, speaking on BBC radio, Britain’s last governor of the city before the 1997 handover said it would be “a catastrophe for China and of course for Hong Kong” if there was a military intervention.
Chris Patten said it was counterproductive of China to warn of “other methods” if the protests did not stop. “Since President Xi has been in office, there’s been a crackdown on dissent and dissidents everywhere, the party has been in control of everything,” he said.
“I very much hope that even after 10 weeks of this going on, the government and President Xi [Jinping] will see the sense in establishing a way of actually bringing people together,” Lord Patten said.
The UN and separately, the U.S. and Canada, have warned Beijing to exercise restraint in its response to growing unrest in the territory.