New footage and satellite images have emerged showing hundreds of military vehicles gathered at a sports centre in a mainland city bordering Hong Kong in an ominous sign that China could be preparing a tough crackdown on the city’s protesters who Beijing has branded ‘terrorists’.
U.S. President Donald Trump yesterday said Chinese troops were moving to the border with Hong Kong, citing U.S. intelligence.
The news comes after multiple Chinese state media released videos to show tanks and military trucks being mobilised to Shenzhen, which shares a 22-mile-long border with Hong Kong.
Beijing has also rejected requests for two U.S. Navy warships to visit Hong Kong, according to U.S. Navy, after the two countries engaged in a war of words over the city’s pro-democracy protests.
Hong Kong has been rocked by protests over the past two months against a proposed bill that would allow people to be extradited from the city to stand trial in Communist Party-controlled courts in mainland China.
The mass display of opposition to the bill has morphed into a wider pro-democracy movement that has thrown down the most significant challenge to Beijing’s authority since the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
A handout satellite image shows military and security vehicles parked in the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center in Shenzhen
Chinese state media also released videos to show tanks and military trucks being mobilised to the city bordering Hong Kong
Hong Kong and the mainland Chinese city of Shenzhen shares a 37-kilometre-long (22-mile-long) border. The satellite images suggested the military trucks have been assembled in Shenzhen Bay, a stone’s throw from Hong Kong across the water
Around 12,000 officers gather at the drill in Shenzhen which shares a 22-mile border with Hong Kong on August 6
Occupying 82.7 acres, Shenzhen Bay Sports Center (pictured) was completed in 2011 and cost 2.3 billion yuan (£217 million)
Shenzhen Bay Port (pictured) is one of the six ports of entry between Shenzhen and Hong Kong. The port is popular with Chinese residents who regularly travel to Hong Kong to shop. As many as 190,000 people pass through the port every day
Will Beijing use troops to quell Hong Kong protests?
Beijing has been apparently reluctant to send in police or army units from the mainland or to mobilise the People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong to quell the unrest.
It’s seen as mindful of the devastating effect that would have both on the territory’s reputation as a safe and stable place to invest in, and as indication of the Communist Party’s failure to win over the hearts and minds of the city’s 7.3 million residents, 22 years after the former British colony was handed over to China.
It would also be a shocking reminder of the PLA’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations centered on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square 30 years ago, which remains a taboo subject in China but is memorialized with a massive rally and march each year in Hong Kong.
Yet, mainland China is believed to have already dispatched officers to fortify the ranks of the Hong Kong police, and may also have planted decoys among the protesters in order to encourage more violent acts that could eventually turn ordinary Hong Kongers against the protest movement.
Such a change in sentiments does not yet appear to have happened despite rising violence surrounding protests and the shutdown of the city’s usually bustling international airport for two days after it was occupied by demonstrators.
The pictures collected on Monday by Maxar’s WorldView show 500 or more vehicles sitting on and around the soccer stadium at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center just across the harbor from Asian financial hub.
Chinese state media have said only that the exercises had been planned before hand and were not directly related to the unrest in Hong Kong, although they came shortly after the central government in Beijing said the protests were beginning to show the ‘sprouts of terrorism.’
The chief of Chinese military in Hong Kong has previously warned that his troops were determined to safeguard national sovereignty in his first response to the city’s ongoing protests.
China’s Hong Kong Liaison office said today that anti-government protesters were no different to ‘terrorists’ after two mainland Chinese citizens were attacked by demonstrators at the airport ‘for being undercover agents’.
Bloody clashes broke out between the demonstrators and anti-riot police last night at Hong Kong International Airport, which had been paralysed by mass pro-democracy rallies for two days.
Amid chaotic scenes officers armed with pepper spray and swinging batons confronted the pro-democracy activists and a number of violent scuffles broke out, resulting in five arrests.
At one stage demonstrators surrounded a policeman who had forced a protester to the floor, grabbed his baton from him and started attacking him, until he took out his gun and pointed it at them.
The Beijing-based Hong Kong and Macau Affairs office on Wednesday said extremely violent crimes must be severely punished in accordance with the law.
The strongly worded statements by China’s central government follow fierce confrontations between black clad protesters and riot police at Hong Kong’s international airport, which saw hundreds of flights halted for a second day in one of the world’s busiest transit hubs.
A few dozen protesters remained at the airport on Wednesday while workers scrubbed it clean of blood and debris. Check-in counters reopened to queues of hundreds of weary travellers who had waited overnight for their flights.
A police officer aims his gun against protesters during the demonstration in Hong Kong airport during yesterday’s clashes
Five people were detained last night, bringing the number of those arrested since the protests began in June to over 600
Protesters surround a man carrying a T-shirt baring the words ‘I love HK police’ who protesters claimed was a police officer from mainland China. The man turned out to be a journalist working for China’s state newspaper Global Times
Bloody clashes broke out between the demonstrators and anti-riot police last night when travellers were still waiting and arriving at Hong Kong International Airport, which had been paralysed by mass pro-democracy rallies for two days
China denies U.S. warship visits to Hong Kong
China has denied requests for two U.S. Navy ships to visit Hong Kong, the Pacific Fleet said on Tuesday, after the two countries engaged in a war of words over the city’s pro-democracy protests.
The USS Green Bay, an amphibious dock landing ship, was to stop in Hong Kong on Saturday, while the guided missile cruiser USS Lake Erie planned a port call there next month, Commander Nate Christensen, deputy spokesman for the United States Pacific Fleet, said in a statement.
‘The Chinese government denied requests for port visits to Hong Kong’ by the two vessels, Christensen said.
He referred the question of why the request was denied to China.
Ten weeks of increasingly violent clashes between police and pro-democracy protesters, angered by a perceived erosion of freedoms, have plunged the Asian financial hub into its worst crisis since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said it strongly condemned the ‘near terrorism criminal actions’ in Hong Kong including what it called a violent attack on a mainland Chinese journalist and tourist at the airport.
The authority said in a statement that the act of violence ‘had utterly disregarded law and discipline, violated human rights and destroyed humanity’.
‘[It] has gone below the bottom line of a civilised society completely and is no different to the savage act of terrorists,’ it added.
Police condemned violent acts by protesters overnight and said a large group had ‘harassed and assaulted a visitor and a journalist’. Some protesters said they believed one of those men was an undercover Chinese agent, while another was confirmed as a reporter from China’s Global Times newspaper.
Chinese media suggested that the reporter was attacked after protesters found a mainland Chinese passport and a T-shirt that said ‘I love HK police’ on him.
A protester attempts to choke a police officer during the demonstration in Hong Kong international airport yesterday
Fu Guohao, a reporter of Chinese media Global Times website, is tied by protesters during a mass demonstration yesterday
Riot police use pepper spray to disperse anti-extradition bill protesters during a mass demonstration after a woman was allegedly shot in the eye during a rally on Sunday. Police and protesters have clashed outside the Terminal 1 of the airport
Medics help a detained man, who protesters claimed was a police officer from mainland China, during a demonstration at the Airport in Hong Kong on Tuesday evening amid violent clashes between police and protesters
A photographer is seen trying to separate a policeman from a woman on the floor. The scuffles broke out yesterday evening between police and protesters after an injured person was taken out of the main terminal by medics
Riot police use pepper spray on protesters. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has urged Hong Kong to exercise restraint and investigate evidence of its forces firing tear gas at protesters in ways banned under international law
One man, believed to be a protester, is seriously wounded during the clash at the Hong Kong airport. Officers armed with pepper spray and swinging batons confronted the protesters who used luggage carts to barricade entrances to the terminal
What do Hong Kong protesters want?
Apart from the resignation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam, Hong Kong demonstrators have listed five demands and have continued to urge the government to respond to them.
These five demands are:
1. A complete withdrawal of the extradition bill
2. A retraction from the government to its characterisation that the protesters were ‘rioters’
3. Unconditional and immediate release of protesters who were arrested and charges against them dropped
4. Establishment of an independent inquiry to investigate police violence during clashes
5. Genuine universal suffrage
Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of China’s state newspaper Global Times, confirmed that the journalist was a correspondent working for the paper named Fu Guohao.
Hu said in a tweet: ‘I affirm this man being tied in this video is the reporter himself.
‘He has no other task except for reporting.
‘I sincerely ask the demonstrators to release him. I also ask for help of West reporters.’
In a post on China’s Twitter-like Weibo today, Hu said the journalist was safe and being treated at the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.
He called the activists ‘shameless’ and ‘cowardly’.
The editor wrote: ‘Shall we stop calling you rioters and start calling you ‘terrorists’?’
Five people were detained in the latest disturbances, police said, bringing the number of those arrested since the protests began in June to more than 600.
The protests began in opposition to a now-suspended bill that would have allowed the extradition of suspects for trial in mainland China but have swelled into wider calls for democracy.
Passengers line up at check in counters at Hong Kong International Airport today after being stranded at the hub due to rallies
Anti-government protesters continue their sit-in at a designated protest area at Hong Kong International Airport today
Hundreds of flights were halted for two consecutive days in Hong Kong International Airport, one of the world’s busiest transit hubs. A few dozen protesters remained at the airport on Wednesday while workers scrubbed it clean of blood
About three dozen protesters remain camped in the airport’s arrivals area a day after a demonstration and frenzied violence
Additional identification checks were in place, but check-in counters are open and flights appear to be operating normally
Protesters spread pamphlets and posters across the floor in a section of the terminal but are not impeding travelers
‘It is not our intention to cause delays to your travels and we do not want to cause inconvenience to you,’ said an emailed statement from a group of protesters. ‘We ask for your understanding and forgiveness as young people in Hong Kong continue to fight for freedom and democracy’
Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has said the city has been pushed into a state of ‘panic and chaos’.
Demonstrators say they are fighting the erosion of the ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement that enshrined some autonomy for Hong Kong when it returned to China in 1997.
The protests represent one of the biggest challenges for Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
In Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump said the Chinese government was moving troops to the border with Hong Kong and urged calm.
Pro-democracy protesters try to occupy the departures hall during another demonstration at Hong Kong’s international airport today. Hong Kong airport authority has suspended all departure check-ins on a second day due to the demonstration
A tourist (central) gives her luggage to security guards as she tries to enter the departures gate during another demonstration by pro-democracy protesters today. The activists have gathered to denounce alleged police violence and call for reforms
Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters (bottom) block access to the departure gates during another demonstration at Hong Kong’s international airport today. The airport authority has advised members of the public not to come to the airport
Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters (centre) crowd the area in front of the departure gates to block access. The airport re-opened this morning after around 200 flights were cancelled yesterday due to a 5,000-strong protest in the terminal building
In this combination of photos taken on Monday, Aug. 12, 2019, protesters wear eyepatches during a demonstration at the airport in Hong Kong. Protesters who have occupied Hong Kong International Airport wore bandages over one eye in a sign of solidarity with a comrade reportedly hit with a type of non-lethal ammunition known as a beanbag round
A pro-democracy protester holds a placard which lists the protesters five demands to the government. The demonstrators are demanding the city’s leader completely withdraw the extradition bill and retract the statement that protesters are ‘rioters’
Posters in the airport were calling for demonstrations under the banner: ‘an eye for an eye’. The slogan refers to a seriously wounded female protester, who was said to be shot in the eye by the police with a bean bag round during a clash on Sunday. Pictured, a nurse with her one-eye covered takes part in a solidarity protest at the Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong today
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has a garrison in Hong Kong but has remained in barracks since the protests started in April. However, the PLA garrison has issued a video showing ‘anti-riot’ exercises, and its top brass have warned violence is ‘absolutely impermissible’.
Footage and satellite images show a large number of military and security vehicles parked at Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre, which looks out to Hong Kong across the water.
People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of China’s Communist Party, this week also released a video to show military vehicles being mobilised to Shenzhen.
The paper warned that Chinese law gives the country’s People’s Armed Police Force the right to crack down on riots, chaos and terrorist attacks.
As Hong Kong’s political crisis deepens, China denied a request for two U.S. Navy warships to visit Hong Kong in the coming weeks, officials said.
Security at Hong Kong airport on Wednesday was stricter than usual with several entrances closed, police patrolling and staff checking traveller identification.
Police on motorbikes are ready to set out at today’s drill in Shenzhen, which has been branded a counterterrorist exercise
Police officers are assembled to take part in a drill in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, as they face rioters played by actors
The police fire a type of newly developed tear gas at the on-coming crowd during a staged clash at a drill in Shenzhen
Protesters played by actors react after police fired new tear gas canisters which could reportedly disperse a larger crowd
Pictures of the drill have been released on Twitter-like Weibo by Shenzhen police, the organiser of today’s anti-riot mission
Hong Kong’s Airport Authority said it would only allow entry for passengers with a boarding pass valid for the next 24 hours and had obtained an interim court injunction to stop people from obstructing operations. Protesters are only allowed to demonstrate in designated areas.
Some protesters expressed remorse for the clashes overnight. One 22-year-old frontliner who identified himself as Pun said protesters needed to re-evaluate their strategy to continue with the fight.
‘We are not trying to overthrow the government or cut ourselves off from China. But we fight for our rights; democracy was promised as part of One country Two systems.’
Flag carrier Cathay Pacific Airways published a half-page advertisement in the Hong Kong Economic Journal pledging its support for the government and calling for the resumption of the rule of law and social order.
Chinese military’s Hong Kong garrison has released a propaganda video showing a drill of heavily armed troops quelling a protest in a warning to the city’s pro-democracy movement
The three-minute clip is labelled by China as its effort to maintain stability and fight terrorism in Hong Kong. It shows soldiers using various weapons and military vehicles, including tanks
The footage also shows soldiers firing a missile from a ship. In a post on China’s Twitter-like Weibo, the garrison claims that the troops are gathering strength to prepare for war
China’s PLA has a garrison in Hong Kong (file photo) but has remained in barracks since the protests started in April
The PLA garrison (file photo) has issued a video of ‘anti-riot’ exercises and warned violence is ‘absolutely impermissible’
China’s aviation regulator demanded last week that Cathay suspend personnel who engaged in or supported protests in Hong Kong from staffing flights into its airspace. The carrier later suspended two pilots.
Property developers Henderson Land Development, Cheung Kong Holdings and Sun Hung Kai Holdings also took out newspaper advertisement in support of the government on Wednesday.
Forward Keys, a flight data company, said the crisis had deterred people from making travel plans to the city, citing a 4.7 percent fall in long-haul bookings to Hong Kong between June 16 and Aug. 9 compared with the same period last year.
Statements of apology from protesters were displayed in the airport on Wednesday, promising to allow passengers to depart, to assist medical staff to carry out their duties and not to hinder the work of the press.
‘We are not afraid of facing the issues directly…only afraid of losing your support to the whole movement due to our mistake, and that you give up on fighting.’