China ramps up talk of army intervention amid violent protests in Hong Kong

A police officer in riot gear fires tear gas at protesters during a clash in the Tsuen Wan district of Hong Kong, on Aug 25, 2019.
A police officer in riot gear fires tear gas at protesters during a clash in the Tsuen Wan district of Hong Kong, on Aug 25, 2019.PHOTO: NYTIMES

BEIJING • Chinese state media has given one of its strongest warnings yet of a possible military intervention in Hong Kong, even though analysts said such a move remained a last resort.

An unsigned commentary from the official Xinhua news agency on Sunday came after the 12th straight weekend of unrest in Asia's main financial hub, with violent clashes that saw demonstrators hurl petrol bombs, and police deploy water cannons and tear gas.

The piece did not say whether the Chinese authorities had reached any decision to act or when, only that they had the legal mechanisms needed to deploy forces in the special administrative region (SAR).

"This is no longer a regular demonstration, but a 'colour revolution' that is aimed at destroying the SAR constitutional order from the bottom," the Xinhua commentary said, citing remarks by late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping saying Beijing must act under such circumstances. "It is the central government's power, and also the central government's responsibility."

The message from Beijing came during a weekend that saw violence re-emerge in Hong Kong after days of largely peaceful demonstrations.

The confrontations - in which a police officer fired a warning shot in the air - could have prompted the sterner tone, said international relations professor Shi Yinhong at Renmin University in Beijing.

"The Chinese government is prepared for armed intervention, but this is a last resort," he added.

With no sign of a political solution between the local government and the demonstrators, Beijing is relying on state propaganda warnings of military intervention to influence the trajectory of the protests, Hong Kong's former No. 2 official, Mrs Anson Chan, said yesterday.

WITHIN AUTHORITY

This is no longer a regular demonstration, but a 'colour revolution' that is aimed at destroying the SAR constitutional order from the bottom... It is the central government's power, and also the central government's responsibility.

CHINA'S STATE NEWS AGENCY XINHUA, in a commentary, recalling comments by former top leader Deng Xiaoping that Beijing has to act under such circumstances.

"It has certainly not come to that point (of sending in troops), but I fear that the longer the government goes without responding to any of the public demands, then the higher the risk of escalating violence," added Mrs Chan, a senior member of Hong Kong's pro-democracy camp.

BLOOMBERG

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2019, with the headline 'China ramps up talk of army intervention amid violent protests in HK'. Print Edition | Subscribe