Residents of Hong Kong have been nervously watching Chinese military and police movements near their borders, fearing each new report of personnel or vehicles arriving near the border city of Shenzhen could be the prelude to a Tiananmen Square-style crackdown.
The latest apprehensions involve a massive convoy of armed police vehicles, which mainland sources say are merely participating in a “large-scale drill.”
The Chinese Communist newspaper People’s Daily published a video of the convoy, which also included unarmed transports and excavation vehicles – quite useful for knocking things over, such as the sort of barricades constructed by Hong Kong protesters –and described them as preparing for a training exercise.
In video: Chinese armed police armored vehicle fleet is prepared for a drill in Shenzhen, S China's Guangdong province. pic.twitter.com/bU4IxhaM0s
— People's Daily, China (@PDChina) August 12, 2019
China’s state-run Global Times also postulated that the “People’s Armed Police” are congregating near Hong Kong for “large-scale exercises” and claimed “the main guns of the APCs appear to have been removed from their turrets.”
The South China Morning Post on Monday found the vehicles parked around the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center, which was patrolled by “personnel in camouflage uniforms” who appeared happy to allow the hardware to be inspected and photographed but refused to answer questions about their mission.
Analysts in both Hong Kong and mainland China speculated the convoy was a “psychological warfare tactic” intended to build pressure against the protesters, especially those who are pushing for dramatic changes to the Hong Kong system, such as true representative democracy.
The SCMP noted a massive riot police drill was held in Shenzhen last week, with some 12,000 officers participating, accompanied by reassurances that they were merely practicing for the upcoming 70th-anniversary celebrations of the Communist government’s founding.
China’s tightly-controlled media are sending decidedly mixed signals to Hong Kong about these “exercises.” The Global Times, for example, followed up its reassuring article about harmless, disarmed APCs rolling into Shenzhen for peaceful training exercises with a belligerent social media post boasting the People’s Armed Police are ready to crack down on “riots, disturbance, major violence, and crime and terrorism-related social security issues,” all of which are derogatory terms Chinese officials have used to describe the Hong Kong demonstrations.
“If Hong Kong rioters cannot read the signal of having armed police gathering in Shenzhen, then they are asking for self-destruction,” the Global Times post warned.