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REASSURING?

Hong Kong police say there’s no plan or protocol for a Beijing intervention

Locals shout at riot police as they chase anti-government protesters down Nathan Road in Mong Kok in Hong Kong.
Reuters/Thomas Peter
Hong Kong riot police chasing protestors.
  • Ephrat Livni
By Ephrat Livni

Senior reporter, law & politics, DC.

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

The summer of discontent in Hong Kong continues. Pro-democracy protestors have been taking to the streets and staging sit-ins for nearly three months to express their opposition to a Chinese extradition law, initially, and now more generally to mainland China’s influence over the “special administrative region.”

As demonstrations have become increasingly heated, speculation has risen about when, how, and whether authorities in Beijing will send reinforcements to help Hong Kong police quell the opposition. Certainly, China hasn’t let the brouhaha go unremarked upon or unpunished—it recently applied pressure on Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong’s largest air carrier, for example.

Meanwhile, state media in China has published images of the Chinese People’s Armed Police setting up in convoys near the Hong Kong border, with intervention the clear implication.

But Hong Kong security officials told journalists in a meeting this week that “it won’t happen,” according to the BBC. Locals “can handle” the current situation alone, they say, and they claim there is no indication that mainland forces will actually intervene.

There are 3,000 trained riot police in the 30,000-strong police force, Hong Kong officials say, and they are getting faster at responding to protests and arresting important “main players.”

A senior Hong Kong police officer explained that there is no protocol for a Chinese police intervention and that there has never been joint training between the two forces. In other words, they have never operated together and haven’t even made provisions in case conditions arise that would make joining forces necessary. The Hong Kong security officials also denied protestors’ claims that undercover Chinese police are already secretly working with local police.

But the reassurances that Hong Kong can handle its own problems are not that reassuring, given that some local police have been accused of brutality with protestors and that China is expressing its discontent as well. On Aug. 12, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported that Yang Guang, a spokesman for the Chinese government’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, said, “Radical Hong Kong protesters have repeatedly used extremely dangerous tools to attack police officers.”

Chinese officials, meanwhile, are characterizing the demonstrations as “terrorism.”

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