- Chinese military vehicles have gathered in Shenzhen, a city in mainland China bordering Hong Kong.
- Several videos posted to social media show a long procession of military trucks entering Shenzhen on Monday morning, apparently “in advance of apparent large-scale exercises,” according to the Chinese state tabloid Global Times.
- The vehicles belong to the Chinese People’s Armed Police Force, a paramilitary police force responsible for riot control and counterterrorism.
- Though China has become more vocal about its ability to mobilize armed forces in Hong Kong, experts say that the military displays are part of a wider strategy aimed at intimidation and deterrence and that it is unlikely that China will actually intervene at this stage.
Chinese military vehicles have gathered in Shenzhen, a city in mainland China bordering Hong Kong – a warning sign from China in response to over 10 weeks of escalating protests in Hong Kong.
Several videos posted to social media show a long procession of military trucks entering Shenzhen on Monday morning. The Chinese state tabloid Global Times posted a compilation of footage showing the military trucks assembling in Shenzhen “in advance of apparent large-scale exercises.”
The People’s Armed Police have been assembling in Shenzhen, a city bordering Hong Kong, in advance of apparent large-scale exercises, videos obtained by the Global Times have shown. https://t.co/3KgaXeHw3C pic.twitter.com/YXAORMay0W
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) August 12, 2019
The propaganda video shows numerous armoured personnel carriers, trucks, and other vehicles belonging to the Chinese People’s Armed Police Force, a paramilitary police force responsible for riot control and counterterrorism, parading through the streets of Shenzhen.
The Times also noted in its report that 12,000 police officers, tanks, helicopters, and amphibious vehicles gathered in Shenzhen on August 6 for what appeared to be anti-riot drills.
Additional video posted to social media appeared to show military vehicles entering the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center, a large stadium located just 5 kilometers, or 3 miles, from the entrance to the Shenzhen Bay Bridge, which connects the city to Hong Kong.
The Chinese military, believing in the intel and these videos, have set in place a comprehensive military operation targeting the situation in #HongKong. #HongKongProtests #China #Democracy https://t.co/QWFM11XYKC
— Alexandre Krauss (@AlexandreKrausz) August 12, 2019
Another clear capture of a Chinese military column entering the #Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre, pinpointing this location as a potential military operation HQ, just 25km from #HongKong. #China #HongKongProtests #Democracy https://t.co/34hODVgwbq
— Alexandre Krauss (@AlexandreKrausz) August 12, 2019
Adam Ni, a researcher on Chinese foreign and security policy at the Australian National University, said on Twitter that the military display was a brazen warning to Hong Kong of China’s combat readiness.
“China is stepping up its signalling, and the message that it wants to conbey is pretty clear: if the protests escalate further, Chinese armed forces will intervene…” Ni wrote in a Twitter thread alongside videos of the vehicles gathering.
A thread with some footages of Chinese armed forces movements around Shenzhen across the border from HK.
China is stepping up its signalling, and the message that it wants to conbey is pretty clear: if the protests escalate further, Chinese armed forces will intervene… pic.twitter.com/IfUK2h4g4e
— Adam Ni (@adam_ni) August 12, 2019
Hundreds and thousands have gathered in the streets of Hong Kong for nearly three months of protests, a growing number of which have turned violent. What initially started as a protest against a proposed bill that would allow for the extradition of Hong Kong residents to mainland China for trial has ballooned into a fight to uphold democracy in the semiautonomous Chinese territory.
Though China has not yet officially announced plans to mobilize its armed forces in Hong Kong, it has become more vocal about its ability to do so in recent weeks.
In July, China’s military arm in Hong Kong carried out “emergency response exercises” – a display observers perceived as a reminder of China’s ability to use force in Hong Kong if it deems it necessary, as stipulated by Hong Kong’s Basic Law, which is essentially the city’s mini constitution.
Weeks later, the Hong Kong garrison released a three-minute video that showed its soldiers engaged in various military activities, including firing rockets at targets and practicing riot drills.
And last week, senior Chinese officials responsible for Hong Kong affairs said in a gathering of Hong Kong’s top business leaders and pro-Beijing politicians in Shenzhen that China would not just “sit by” if the situation in Hong Kong deteriorates to a point that is beyond the control of the city’s government.
Zhang Xiaoming, the director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of China’s State Council, added that Chinese authorities had “ample methods as well as sufficient strength to promptly settle any possible turmoil should it occur.”
Ni described China’s recent military displays as part of a wider strategy aimed at intimidation and deterrence, though he says it is unlikely that China will actually intervene at this stage.
“Beijing may at some point make the judgment that the situation warrant military intervention regardless of the high cost involved,” he wrote on Twitter. “But we are not at this point just yet.”
Still, he says, military intervention in Hong Kong remains an option that China is prepared to use: “We should not discount this possibility, one that will almost certainly have tragic consequences.”