China issued a stark reminder on Wednesday that its Army could be deployed in Hong Kong if city authorities requested support in maintaining “public order” after weeks of protests.
Hong Kong has been plunged into its worst crisis in recent history after millions of demonstrators took to the streets — and sporadic violent confrontations between the police and pockets of hardcore protesters.
The demonstrations were triggered by a bill which would have allowed extraditions to mainland China but have evolved into a call for wider democratic reforms.
Beijing has labelled the protests as “extreme illegal violence”, but has left it to the city’s semi-autonomous government to deal with the situation.
Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said at a news conference in Beijing that the Ministry has been “paying close attention” to the situation in Hong Kong.
Asked how his Ministry would handle the situation, Mr. Wu pointedly noted that there are “clear stipulations” in Article 14 of Hong Kong’s garrison law — without elaborating. According to the article, the city’s authorities may ask, “when necessary”, the Central government for assistance from the garrison “in the maintenance of public order and in disaster relief”.
This was the first time Beijing has publicly referred to the possibility of deploying the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to deal with the unrest in Hong Kong. “The actions of some radical demonstrators challenged the authority of the central government and touched upon the bottom line of the ‘One country, two systems’ principle,” Mr. Wu said. “This is absolutely intolerable.”