HONG KONG—The Hong Kong garrison of China’s army released a video depicting soldiers on riot drills in scenes that evoke recent protests in the city, which has been rocked by a deepening political crisis.
The three-minute promotional video features a People’s Liberation Army soldier shouting in the local Cantonese language, “All consequences are at your own risk.”
The scenes depict troops firing military rifles in city streets, destroying a car with a rocket, and firing gas canisters at a group of retreating civilians. In one scene, a tank shoots rounds at a target, and ends with the word “Annihilated.”
The clip finishes with interviews of people showing their support for the troops, including a young girl who says in Cantonese: “As a Chinese I feel very proud.”
Hong Kong is in its eighth week of political turmoil. The unrest was ignited by a proposed extradition bill, now shelved, that would have allowed suspects to be tried in mainland China. It has since broadened into a movement pursuing a range of political grievances. As confrontations between protesters and police have become increasingly violent in recent weeks, China has stepped up calls for Hong Kong to restore order.
On Monday, China’s top office for Hong Kong affairs used a rare news conference to endorse police handling of the violence and protests, though it declined to directly discuss the possibility of sending mainland troops to the city, a highly unpalatable option for China.
The day after, police charged 44 people with rioting, having arrested them during one of the fiercest street clashes in a central part of the city on Sunday.
Last week, Senior Col. Wu Qian, defense spokesman, said the military is closely monitoring the unrest, while the Chinese military garrison chief in Hong Kong, Chen Daoxiang, was quoted Thursday in the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper, People’s Daily, as saying the army was determined to protect China’s sovereignty.
Maj. Gen. Chen said “a series of extreme violent incidents” in Hong Kong has undermined its prosperity and stability, threatened the safety of Hong Kong citizens’ lives and property, and seriously challenged the bottom line of “one country, two systems”—Beijing’s framework for governing Hong Kong as a semiautonomous region. He condemned what he called “absolutely intolerable” actions.
The initial response from some in the antigovernment camp to the promotional video is that it won’t deter them from taking to the streets. More protests are planned in coming days.
“The students wouldn’t be afraid of this propaganda,” said Sunny Cheung, spokesperson for the Hong Kong Higher Institutions International Affairs Delegation, a task force composed of student-union representatives from several local universities. “We maintain that political problems should be solved with political solutions.”
Article 14 of the Basic Law—Hong Kong’s mini-constitution—states that military forces stationed by Beijing in the region for defense shouldn’t interfere with local affairs. However, when necessary, local authorities can ask Beijing for assistance from the garrison for public order and disaster relief.
Foreign diplomats estimate the PLA’s Hong Kong garrison has 8,000 to 10,000 troops. While the troops hold open days and have supported a youth military camp, they largely keep to dedicated barracks across the city.
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