As state media circulate images of armed Chinese police massing across the border in Shenzhen in an apparent bid to intimidate, US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned on Monday that any violent crackdown by the mainland on unrest in Hong would be “completely unacceptable.”
Mainland officials and state-run media have repeatedly sought to foster the perception that a mainland intervention in Hong Kong’s long-running protest movement would be justified should local officials fail to restore order, with the Beijing-backed Global Times this week circulating images of convoys of trucks and armored personnel carriers assembling in Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong.
The People’s Armed Police have been assembling in Shenzhen, a city bordering Hong Kong, in advance of apparent large-scale exercises, videos obtained by the Global Times have shown. https://t.co/3KgaXeHw3C pic.twitter.com/YXAORMay0W
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) August 12, 2019
“Numerous armored personnel carriers (APC), trucks and other vehicles of the Armed Police were seen on expressways heading in the direction of Shenzhen over the weekend and assembling there, the videos indicate,” the Global Times’ report reads.
The report goes on to note that the People’s Armed Police, unlike the ordinary police force, are under the supervision of the Central Military Commission, and are tasked with handling “rebellions, riots, serious violent and illegal incidents, terrorist attacks and other social security incidents.”
On Monday, following a day of widespread protests, officials in Beijing warned that the city’s protests were beginning to show the “signs of terrorism emerging.”
On Monday, US Republican Mitch McConnell weighed in on the matter, lauding Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters and warning against a crackdown.
“The people of Hong Kong are bravely standing up to the Chinese Communist Party as Beijing tries to encroach on their autonomy and freedom,” he said in a tweet. “Any violent crackdown would be completely unacceptable.”
The people of Hong Kong are bravely standing up to the Chinese Communist Party as Beijing tries to encroach on their autonomy and freedom. Any violent crackdown would be completely unacceptable. As I have said on the Senate floor: The world is watching. https://t.co/5VPm5P4PfB
— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) August 12, 2019
In remarks made on the Senate floor in July, McConnell pointed to Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous government and institutions as “crucial preconditions of its tremendous growth and prosperity,” noting the large amount American corporations have invested in the territory.
“So, at a time when China faces slowing growth, Beijing should seek to emulate Hong Kong. Not to engulf Hong Kong and remake it in the image of the Chinese Communist Party,” he added.
He went on to call Beijing’s handling of Hong Kong “an indicator of how China’s rulers will behave abroad,” but stopped short of naming any consequences should Beijing resort to harsher measures in dealing with unrest.
Meanwhile, an unnamed White House official on Monday called for “all sides” to avoid violence.
“Societies are best served when diverse political views are respected and can be freely and peacefully expressed,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
The latest videos of police movements came on the heels of similar footage, also circulated by the Global Times, of extensive police exercises, including riot control, in Shenzhen a week ago.
Shenzhen #police drill attracted unusual attention as it features scenarios that resemble the ongoing riots in #HongKong. #香港 https://t.co/0HzpBmpLpp (Video: Shenzhen News Radio) pic.twitter.com/1pIH9ABWlO
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) August 6, 2019
It also comes after the Hong Kong garrison of the People’s Liberation Army released a flashy video showing off its capabilities — again, including crowd control — as its leader condemned recent violent protests and professed his commitment to preserving China’s sovereignty.
Other Beijing officials have also pushed line that a PLA intervention would be in line with Hong Kong law, which states that the army is allowed to operate in the territory at the request of the local government.
However, the central government has sent mixed messages, with representatives of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office — and even an op-ed in the Global Times — suggesting local authorities were capable of quelling the unrest on their own.
The US — which is engaged in a heated trade war with China — has sent mixed signals of its own, with President Donald Trump saying on Aug. 1 that the crisis was “between Hong Kong… and China,” and that Beijing didn’t “need advice” on the situation.
A mont earlier, he had drawn Beijing’s ire by suggesting that “most people want democracy. Unfortunately, some governments don’t want democracy.”
Additional reporting by AFP.