- China’s military arm in Hong Kong on Wednesday released a three-minute video on its official Weibo social media account, showing its soldiers engaged in various military activities.
- The video includes personnel practicing riot drills with a group of mock protesters and firing rockets and guns at targets.
- One particular scene showed army personnel perched atop tanks in the same arena used for riot drill practice.
- It bears striking resemblance to China’s response to protests held in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, which killed and injured hundreds of people.
- China in recent weeks has hinted that its military presence in Hong Kong could be activated to mediate protests which have sent the territory into political chaos for nearly two months.
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China’s military arm in Hong Kong on Wednesday released a video showing its soldiers dressed in riot gear and riding in tanks in scenes that bore striking similarities to the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.
The three-minute video, published on the official Weibo social media account for the China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA)’s Hong Kong Garrison, showed its soldiers engaged in various military activities, including practicing riot drills with a group of mock protesters and firing rockets and guns at targets.
According to Reuters, the video was posted under the title “anti-riot drill footage.”
Dozens of soldiers dressed in riot gear can be seen chanting in unison and charging at a group of mock protesters who wore masks and carried batons and other makeshift weapons, similar to some protesters in current demonstrations.
Most strikingly, the video, posted by South China Morning Post, features army personnel perched atop tanks in the same arena used for riot drill practice. There are no protesters in the frame as tanks roll through the muddy scene.
The scene bears striking resemblance to famous images from China’s response to protests held in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. Pro-democracy protests, led by students, were marred by Chinese tanks and armed troops, who were instructed to “use any means” to clear out protesters who had been occupying the area for weeks.
The infamous event turned bloody as thousands of soldiers fired into the crowd, killing and injuring hundreds of people. The exact toll remains unclear to this day.
An image of a man challenging a line of Chinese tanks has become a symbol of resistance against Chinese force used in the brutal crackdown.
China has fought to censor discussion of the massacre within its borders, and it remains a sensitive part of China’s history.
Chen Daoxiang, the commander of the PLA’s Hong Kong garrison, said in a speech celebrating the 92nd anniversary of the Chinese military on Wednesday that the military unit would uphold the rule of law in Hong Kong.
“Recently, there have been a series of extremely violent incidents happening in Hong Kong,” he said during the reception which accompanied the riot drill’s video, according to SCMP.
“This should not be tolerated and we express our strong condemnation.”
44 people, including a 16-year-old girl, have been charged with rioting during ongoing protests, and face up to 10 years in prison.
What initially started as a protest of a proposed bill that would allow for the extradition of Hong Kong residents to mainland China for trial has ballooned into a fight to uphold democracy in the semiautonomous region.
On Monday, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office under the State Council, the Chinese government agency responsible for coordination between the mainland and the two territories, held the first press conference in its 22-year history, saying Hong Kong’s society would “suffer” if the protests continue.
“Hong Kong cannot afford to have instability,” a statement made by the office said. “Should the chaos continue, it is the entire Hong Kong that will suffer.”
Earlier this month, China’s military arm in Hong Kong carried out “emergency response exercises” – a display observers perceived as a reminder of China’s ability to step in and use force in Hong Kong if it deems it necessary as stipulated by the city’s Basic Law.
Adam Ni, a researcher on Chinese foreign and security policy at the Australian National University, told the South China Morning Post that the goal of the drills was to send a “blatant message” about its capacity to mediate tensions on the ground.