Beijing will not sit by and watch if Hong Kong crisis worsens: Chinese envoy

Chinese armed police (above) practising their tactics yesterday at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre in Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong, while trucks and armoured personnel carriers (right) were seen parked outside.
Chinese armed police (above) practising their tactics yesterday at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre in Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong, while trucks and armoured personnel carriers were seen parked outside.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Chinese armed police (above) practising their tactics yesterday at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre in Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong, while trucks and armoured personnel carriers (right) were seen parked outside.
Chinese armed police practising their tactics yesterday at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre in Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong, while trucks and armoured personnel carriers (above) were seen parked outside.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON/SHENZHEN • China is ready to quell the unrest swiftly if the crisis in Hong Kong becomes uncontrollable, China's Ambassador to London said yesterday.

"If the situation deteriorates further into unrest uncontrollable by the SAR (Special Administrative Region) government, then the central government will not sit by and watch," Mr Liu Xiaoming said in a televised news conference.

"We have enough solutions and enough power to quell the unrest swiftly," he said.

Earlier in the day, images captured by media showed thousands of Chinese military personnel waving red flags and parading at a sports stadium in the city of Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong. Dozens of armoured personnel carriers and supply trucks were also parked nearby.

Mr Liu would not go into detail about what measures Beijing might take, or when the situation might be judged to be out of control.

Beijing has not ruled out sending in troops, although most observers consider that unlikely.

"We hope this will end in an orderly way. In the meantime, we are fully prepared for the worst," Mr Liu said.

He also told other countries to stop meddling. "We cannot accept any interference in Hong Kong's internal affairs," he said, and urged British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government to handle the issue with "great caution".

China has provided few con-crete examples of alleged foreign meddling.

 
 
 
 

State-run media reported this week that elements of the People's Armed Police (PAP), which is under the command of the Central Military Commission, were assembling in Shenzhen.

Some of the personnel inside the stadium on Thursday had armed police insignia on their camouflage fatigues.

The security forces could be seen moving in formation inside the stadium, and occasionally running, while others rode around outside on motorcycles.

Outside the stadium - which is around 7km from Hong Kong - there were also dozens of trucks and armoured personnel carriers.

The People's Daily and Global Times, two of the most prominent state-run media outlets, published videos on Monday of what they said was the PAP assembling in Shenzhen.

The Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin said the military presence in Shenzhen was a sign that China was prepared to intervene in Hong Kong. "If they do not pull back from the cliff and continue to push the situation further beyond the critical point, the power of the state may come to Hong Kong at any time," he wrote.

United States President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that American intelligence had confirmed Chinese troop movements towards the Hong Kong border. "I hope it works out for everybody, including China. I hope it works out peacefully, nobody gets hurt, nobody gets killed," he said.

The Chinese military has not interfered in Hong Kong since the handover but it can, should it be called on by the city's government to maintain public order.

Mr James Char, a military expert at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, said the deployment to Shenzhen was both to project an image of domestic strength as well as "a carefully calculated message to the protesters to think twice about growing or continuing with their recent intensified demonstrations".

"We can be certain the regime understands that sending in troops to Hong Kong will inflame the protests and the protesters' anti-China grievances," he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2019, with the headline 'Beijing will not sit by and watch if HK crisis worsens: Chinese envoy'. Print Edition | Subscribe