BEIJING – China does not yet need to send troops into Hong Kong as the local police have means of dealing with protests there, an advisor to China’s State Council has said.
But Shi Yinhong, who was quoted by the South China Morning Post, warned that if “the violence and chaos” continues it would be more likely that soldiers are sent in.
“I don’t think we need to use troops. Hong Kong police will gradually escalate their action and they haven’t exhausted their means,” said Shi, an expert in international relations.
Shi added that if the violent episodes continued in the context of the protests then the situation “won’t be too far away from reaching that point” (Chinese troops being sent into Hong Kong to intervene).
His comments come at a time when Chinese military vehicles have been photographed in the city of Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong.
The vehicles were at a stadium close to a bridge that connects the city in mainland China to Hong Kong, and likely belong to the People’s Armed Police (PAP), a paramilitary police force that reports to the Central Military Commission that is led by President Xi Jinping.
Chinese State media on Monday published footage showing tanks and trucks transporting PAP troops to Shenzhen.
The video, broadcast on State TV channel CGTN, did not make any direct references to Hong Kong but recalled that Chinese law stipulates the force is obliged to respond to revolts, disturbances, serious violence, terror attacks and other incidents that endanger put social peace.
Shi said direct military intervention on the part of China could further damage its relations with the United States, already on the rocks due to the trade war.
“If Beijing intervenes with too much assertiveness, the US might revoke the preferential status of Hong Kong,” the expert said, according to the SCMP.
He rejected suggestions made by other observers that Beijing needed to see an end to the protests ahead of the 70th anniversary of China’s founding on October 1, acknowledging that National Day was important but adding that the government was “not naive to believe there has to be peace under all heaven then.”
Protests have gripped Hong Kong since March and initially kicked off in rejection of a controversial extradition bill proposed by the local government which has since been declared “dead” by HK Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
According to opponents, such a law would allow political dissidents to be sent to mainland China to stand trial.
Hong Kong passed from British to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, although it still retains a degree of independence from Beijing under the “one country, two systems” formula.
According to the handover deal between London and Beijing, this political system – which includes certain legal freedoms not recognized in mainland China – must be preserved until 2047.
The protests that have ensued have mobilized thousands of citizens since June.