There’s an interesting bit of news from China’s border with Hong Kong where this year’s routine troop rotation fails to mention troop numbers.
The decision is out of the ordinary because past China’s troop transfer announcements typically include the phrase, “the number of troops and equipment of the garrison in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region remained unchanged.” The note about soldier levels not changing dates back to at least 2004 with Chun Han Wong from The Wall Street Journal noting China keeps a thousand troops garrisoned near Hong Kong. The timing of military post turnover appears to vary anywhere from August to November.
Today’s announcement eschewed the troop level phrase focusing instead on the replacements’ knowledge of the current situation in Hong Kong and their honed military skills. China-run Xinhua reported the soldiers would work to perform defense duty in Hong Kong and vowed to make “new and greater contributions in maintaining the prosperity and stability” of the region. Gone from the lexicon are the promises to serve and answer to the people made in previous handovers.
More curious is how China handled troop arrival. South China Morning Post reported ground and naval forces came into Hong Kong in the early morning unseen from the watchful eye of the public. Air units did the complete opposite with an apparent show of force by appearing in the Hong Kong skies during daylight. Civic Party and Legislative Council of Hong Kong member Dennis Kwok stated the obvious by calling the moves pure posturing in hopes of stopping any future protests. He also warned Hong Kong might be destroyed if Chinese troops decided to supplement police on the streets.
How this affects the coming weekend will be a sight to behold. Police recently banned a planned demonstration for Saturday over so-called safety concerns claiming threats were made over social media. They’re also promising to be a bit more proactive in keeping the so-called peace. The decision will be appealed with Civil Human Rights Front founder Jimmy Sham telling Hong Kong Free Press the government’s rejection letter did not provide a clear enough reasoning. He also blasted Chief Executive Carrie Lam for making the people of Hong Kong angrier instead of trying to meet and address concerns. Sham later barely escaped an attack by two men who turned their anger on one of his friends. Another protest organizer was bludgeoned by four unknown attackers while he was being interviewed by a journalist and a student reporter with City SU was arrested this week on claims he damaged the legislative building last month.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government invited a Hong Kong police officer who pointed a shotgun at protesters to their upcoming National Day celebration because they see him as a national hero. The Hong Kong government may invoke something called the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to give Lam more power and rumors are circulating of possible Internet censorship on the horizon.
It should be pointed out the protests in Hong Kong show no sign of abating. Organizers plan a rally, yet to be approved by the government, over the treatment of animals during police actions. There is also a strike which may or may not happen next week. Students may skip school to attend rallies and demonstrations.
This is where China’s handling of Hong Kong will get even more delicate. The last time the Chinese faced protests like this Tiananmen Square was the result. It seems China’s only knows how to confront upheaval is through the power of the police or the military. The problem they face now is the fact the military and police may not be able to contain what appeared from the start as a tempest in a teapot but is in reality something much more important.