China Stages Massive Anti-Riot Drill Across Hong Kong Border

This Friday, Aug. 16, 2019, photo shows armored vehicles and troop trucks are parked outside Shenzhen Bay Stadium in Shenzhen, China. Members of China's paramilitary People's Armed Police marched and practiced crowd control tactics at a sports complex in Shenzhen across from Hong Kong on Friday, in what some interpreted …
Madoka Ikegami/Kyodo News via AP

China’s “People’s Armed Police” staged “large-scaled anti-riot exercises” on Thursday in Shenzhen, the southern Chinese city that borders Hong Kong, a move state media dismissed as “routine.”

The exercises occurred shortly before Hong Kong police arrested at least five high-profile pro-democracy dissidents in Hong Kong, including a lawmaker and a prominent activist only released from jail in June, late Thursday and early Friday. Police in Hong Kong also banned a planned peaceful protest organized by the Civil Human Rights Front, which does significant work to ensure the legality of assemblies, for this weekend.

The Global Times reported Friday that the drills were intended to prepare police officers to suppress “rebellions, riots, serious violent and illegal incidents, terrorist attacks and other incidents endangering social safety.”

“Hundreds of armed officers took part in the drill in which they confronted rioters holding long batons, according to a video widely circulating online. When riot police marched forward, rioters did not stop moving forward, and some struck the officers with batons, the video showed,” the Times reported. “The officers then steadily moved forward equipped with firm shields and two water cannons. They began aiming at the rioters before spraying water at them.”

The Global Times did not cite police as admitting that the goal of the drills was to prepare for a violent attack on protesters in Hong Kong, but did quote “some internet users” who pointed out the obvious parallels between the “rebellion” that officers were practicing to fight.

Police have been attacking protesters in Hong Kong for weeks, but used water cannons and live fire for the first time last weekend.

The drill is the third outsized police movement in Shenzhen this month. In early August, Beijing moved 12,000 police officers into the city for a drill on defending “social stability” intended to practice cracking down on a peaceful protest movement similar to that ongoing in Hong Kong. Two weeks later, the People’s Armed Police conducted drills dressed as soldiers against “rioters,” equipped with armored vehicles and advanced weapons.

China stationed a special Communist Party “task force” in Shenzhen in July to oversee the protests.

Millions in Hong Kong began to protest against China’s attempts to impose its communist laws on the city in June, initially demanding only that lawmakers fully withdraw a bill that, if passed, would have granted Chinese police extradition powers to transfer anyone present in Hong Kong accused of violating Communist Party law to a Chinese prison. China routinely disappears prominent members of religious communities, human rights attorneys, and other pro-freedom activists into its prison system, which many never escape.

In response to violence from police and masked pro-China thugs, and belligerent statements smearing the peaceful movement as a separatist “riot” wave, the protesters are now making five demands of the Hong Kong government: a full withdrawal of the extradition bill, an independent probe into police brutality, freedom for the movement’s political prisoners, universal suffrage to elect lawmakers directly, and the rescinding of the government’s description of the June 12 protest as a “riot.”

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has repeatedly rejected accepting any of the five demands. Following last weekend’s protests, Lam threatened to enact more laws to restrict freedom for assembly and expression in Hong Kong.

On Friday, reports revealed that police went on an arrest spree of prominent Hong Kong democracy activists including Demosisto movement secretary-general Joshua Wong and lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai.

Following his release, Wong rejected being labeled a leader in the protests – insisting the movement has no leaders – and vowed, “we shall never surrender!”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not issue any direct answers Friday regarding the mass arrests in Hong Kong and its involvement.

While most of the world’s attention is on the Hong Kong protest movement, thousands of police and soldiers stationed in Shenzhen also serve to intimidate the local population who, unlike Hongkongers, live under official communist rule. Shenzhen has grown increasingly restless as the regime of Communist Party strongman Xi Jinping has failed to provide basic services.

Thousands of local children are ineligible to receive a public education because the communists have failed to build enough schools for the booming population. Real estate prices are skyrocketing for longtime locals because Beijing decided to turn the once-sleepy city into a global financial hub nearly overnight, establishing a giant Huawei “campus” there and selling the city as communism’s alternative to Hong Kong.

The Communist Party has proclaimed Shenzhen “a pilot demonstration area of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

“Shenzhen, with its new mission to lead China’s socialist development, is set to become a bellwether for the country’s 21st Century economic model,” the state news agency Xinhua claimed on Thursday.

In addition to gentrification and severe government incompetence hurting Shenzhen locals, rapid development has resulted in the establishment of factories accused of significantly violating the rights of their workers. Shenzhen is home to the Jasic Technology factory, where a call to unionize resulted in widespread protests last year by Maoists who consider Xi Jinping a traitor to the ideals of communism.

Xi dealt with the Maoists by disappearing them from college campuses, hotbeds of democratic activity.

Police in Shenzhen used pepper spray on protesters in November demanding compensation after dangerous mining and construction labor left them with lung disease. Witnesses and victims said the use of pepper spray on individuals with diseased lungs caused significant pain and injury.

In December, on Mao Ze Dong’s birthday, Xi Jinping’s police arrested the head of Peking University’s Marxist study group for his ties to the Jasic Workers’ Solidarity Group, a Maoist organization created to support the Shenzhen workers.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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