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.
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".
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.
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.