Chinese communist regime authorities staged a 12,000-strong police officer anti-riot drill on Tuesday in Shenzhen to prepare officers to protect “social stability,” a move immediately following a turbulent weekend of anti-communist protests just south of Shenzhen’s border in Hong Kong.
A growing pro-democracy movement has persisted in Hong Kong for the last two months, demanding, among other things, direct election of the city’s legislators and an inquiry into police brutality against protesters. On Monday, the protesters organized a general strike that saw an estimated 500,000 people call out of work, leaving the city’s mass transit and airport nearly inoperable.
The Communist Party of China, which does not have legal authority over capitalist Hong Kong, has repeatedly hinted at sending the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into Hong Kong to silence the protests, raising fears of a similar situation to the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989. Authorities claim the protesters are violent “separatists” who pose a threat to average Hong Kong citizens.
At their peak, the protests, which began in June, attracted 2 million of Hong Kong’s 7 million residents, contradicting Chinese regime claims that the protesters are a small, violent minority.
The South China Morning Post reported Tuesday that the Shenzhen police drills pitted officers against large groups of people resembling the Hong Kong protesters, wearing “black shirts and red or yellow construction safety helmets.” Beijing broadcast video footage of the drills, which officials said were meant to “increase troop morale, practice, and prepare for the security of celebrations” in anticipation of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The drills would also help officers “maintain national political security and social stability,” a police statement added. In the video, the officers used tear gas and pepper spray liberally, mirroring tactics used in Hong Kong against protesters this weekend.
The drills are the second of their kind since protests began to occur in or near Hong Kong. In early July, the PLA organized “emergency response exercises” for its Hong Kong Garrison, stationed legally in the city as part of the “One Country, Two Systems” policy. “One Country, Two Systems” allows Hong Kong to govern itself with capitalist laws so long as it accepts Chinese sovereignty over it, which includes accepting the PLA as its own military.
“The PLA Hong Kong Garrison is responsible for preparing against and resisting aggression, safeguarding the security of Hong Kong, carrying out defense duties, administering military facilities and handling foreign-related military affairs,” China’s Global Times noted in July.
The head of the PLA Hong Kong Garrison made a rare public statement last week calling the protests “absolutely intolerable” and vowing that his troops would “resolutely safeguard” Chinese interests in Hong Kong.
“The PLA Hong Kong Garrison will resolutely safeguard the country’s sovereignty and security, as well as Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability,” Commander Chen Daoxiang said.
The PLA also released a propaganda video that week showing an invasion of a city much like Hong Kong, warning of “consequences” for “rioters.”
Despite the consistent, if not explicit, warnings of a potential invasion in the event that the protests do not end, the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council – the official Communist Party bureaucracy in the city – issued a statement Tuesday expressing full confidence in the local Hong Kong government to resolve the situation in Beijing’s favor. The statement, via spokesperson Yang Guang, threatened protesters with violence – “those who play with fire will perish by it,” Yang said, warning, “don’t ever underestimate the firm resolve and immense strength of the central government.” Yet aside from those statements, which the state-run Global Times newspaper notably omitted from its coverage of Yang’s remarks, Yang insisted that Beijing would let its puppet government in Hong Kong handle the situation.
“The central government and people from all over the country give true support to the prosperity and stability in Hong Kong,” Yang said. “We believe that with firm support from the central government and from people in Hong Kong together with people from all over the country, the Hong Kong regional government and Hong Kong police are fully capable of punishing violent crimes and restoring social order and stability.”
The protests on Monday elevated the level of disruption the protests have brought to Hong Kong through the work walkout tactic. Protesters largely remained peaceful, only flooding transportation hubs and using their presence as a protest. They nonetheless faced violence from armed pro-China thugs, who stabbed and beat protesters with sticks on Monday night. On a separate occasion, protesters faced violence from a local man who drove his car through a barricade, hitting protesters standing on the other side. The incident was caught on video.
Hong Kong’s population began to revolt in early June in response to a proposed law that would have allowed China to extradite individuals from Hong Kong if accused of a Communist Party crime, a violation of “One Country, Two Systems.” Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam declared the bill “dead” in July, but lawmakers have only tabled the bill, allowing an instant revival if a lawmaker seeks to reintroduce it into the legislature. To prevent lawmakers from doing so, protesters destroyed the Legislative Council’s (LegCo) administrative headquarters in July.
The pro-democracy movement has laid out five demands to the city government: a full withdrawal of the extradition bill, freedom for political prisoners, an independent inquiry into police brutality, a statement from the government apologizing for referring to the peaceful June 12 protest as a “riot,” and the direct election of all lawmakers, not just half as the current system allows.
Lam, who has refused to resign as chief executive despite presiding over unceasing protests against her administration, condemned the movement sternly in a rare public appearance Monday.
“Some radical elements have changed the nature of the protests: some defaced the national emblem, and others took down a national flag and threw it into the sea. They said they want to foment revolution, to ‘liberate’ Hong Kong,” Lam claimed. “These actions far exceeded the original political demands. These unlawful actions challenge national sovereignty and threaten One Country, Two Systems, and will destroy Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.”