China says army can help maintain order in Hong Kong if requested

China says army can help maintain order in Hong Kong if requested

Hong Kong police
A policeman fires tear gas at protesters to disperse them after a march against a controversial extradition bill in Hong Kong. (Anthony WALLACE/AFP)

BEIJING: Chinese troops stationed in Hong Kong can intervene to maintain public order if necessary, said China’s Defence Ministry on Wednesday (Jul 24). 

Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian said Beijing has been following developments in Hong Kong closely, especially the incident last Sunday when “radicals” vandalised the China liason office in the city.

“The relevant departments have already commented on this - these actions challenge the authority of the central government and the principle of One Country, Two Systems. They cannot be tolerated,” Wu said at a news conference unveiling China’s white paper on national defence.

wu qian
China's Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian leaves as journalists are asking question on Hong Kong's recent protests after a press conference at the State Council Information Office in Beijing, Wednesday, Jul 24, 2019. (Photo: AP/Andy Wong)

When asked by a reporter how China intends to respond to the situation, Wu said that there are “clear provisions” in section 3, article 14 of China's Hong Kong Garrison Law.

It states that Hong Kong can request for assistance from China "when necessary ... in the maintenance of public order and in disaster relief".

READ: China says Hong Kong protests against Beijing office 'absolutely intolerable'

Hong Kong protests on Jul 22, 2019
A man rests in front of a travel agency after clashes between protesters and police following a march against a controversial extradition bill in Hong Kong early on Jul 22, 2019. (Photo: AFP / Philip Fong)

This is 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 PLA has maintained a garrison in Hong Kong since the former British colony was returned to China in 1997, but its troops generally keep a low profile and are rarely seen in uniform in public.

On Tuesday, Hong Kong's government dismissed online "rumours" that the Chinese army will be stationed outside certain buildings like the liaison office and the Legislative Council building.

"The claims are totally unfounded," Hong Kong authorities said.

READ: China's PLA signals it will keep Hong Kong-based troops in barracks

Protesters throw projectiles near the Chinese Liaison Office in Hong Kong on Jul 21, 2019
Protesters throw projectiles near the Chinese Liaison Office after a march against a controversial extradition bill in Hong Kong on Jul 21, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Vivek Prakash)

READ: Anti-government protesters disrupt Hong Kong's MTR train services during morning rush

Hong Kong has been plunged into crisis by weeks of marches and sporadic violent confrontations between police and pockets of hardcore protesters.

The initial protests were sparked by a now-suspended Bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, but they have since evolved into a wider movement calling for democratic reforms, universal suffrage and a halt to sliding freedoms in the semi-autonomous territory.

Source: CNA/Agencies/aa(gs)

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