(Update: President Trump tweeted Tuesday, “Our Intelligence has informed us that the Chinese Government is moving troops to the Border with Hong Kong. Everyone should be calm and safe!”)
(CNSNews.com) – Chinese Communist Party outlets have posted videos purporting to show anti-terror paramilitary police personnel and vehicles assembling in a mainland city adjacent to Hong Kong. They did so on the same day as a senior official in Beijing for the first time accused protests in the territory of showing “signs of terrorism.”
Amid ongoing criticism from members of Congress, the government on Monday repeated its demand that U.S. politicians “stop interfering in China’s internal affairs.”
Under the “one country, two systems” agreement governing the former British colony’s return to Chinese rule in 1997, security falls under the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF), comprising permanent residents of Hong Kong.
But the troops assembling in Shenzhen, the mainland city bordering Hong Kong, belong to the People’s Armed Police (PAP), a paramilitary unit which by law responds to “rebellions, riots, serious violent and illegal incidents, terrorist attacks and other social security incidents,” the People’s Daily explained on Monday.
That newspaper, and another Communist Party-affiliated paper, Global Times, posted video clips showing a convoy of PAP armored personnel carriers moving towards and assembling in Shenzhen, to a backdrop of martial music.
Global Times said the PAP deployment in Shenzhen was “in advance of apparent large-scale exercises.”
Unlike the regular police, PAP personnel fall under military command, wear military rather than blue uniforms, and have a rank structure similar to that of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
A week ago, Hong Kong authorities in a statement denied as “totally unfounded” rumors that PLA personnel were being “deployed as Hong Kong Police.”
The video images, together with the use of the word “terrorism” to describe actions taken by some of the masses of protestors who have been demonstrating for the past ten weeks, will do nothing to quell fears arising from such rumors.
At a press conference in Beijing, the spokesman for the government department responsible for Hong Kong affairs charged that protesters have committed “serious violent crimes and have begun to show signs of terrorism.”
“This is a gross violation of Hong Kong’s rule of law and social order,” said Yang Guang, spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, who warned that matters have “reached a critical juncture.”
Yang said violent crimes must be stamped out, and said Beijing “strongly supports the decisive enforcement of the Hong Kong Police Force.”
The HKPF was under fire on Monday for some of its actions over the weekend, including the use of teargas and batons inside an enclosed subway station, assaults against already-subdued protestors, and the deployment of police officers posing as protestors.
Defending the force, the territory’s security minister also used the “terrorism” term to describe the actions of some protesters, who had thrown stones and other objects at police – including petrol bombs in a couple of cases.
“This is sowing the seed of terror, which I think the police must deal with,” Secretary for Security John Lee told a press conference.
Hong Kong’s deputy police commissioner, Tang Ping-keung, acknowledged to reporters that some officers had disguised themselves as protestors – he called them “decoy operatives” – although he declined to say how many there were. He insisted they would not “engage in any unlawful actions.”
Also using the word “terrorism” was the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, which said in a statement, “If these terrorist atrocities are allowed to spread, Hong Kong will slide into a bottomless abyss.”
Mass protests began in early June in response to a proposed law that would allow criminal suspects to be extradited to the mainland to face trial. The territory’s government later suspended the move, but pro-democracy groups want it permanently dropped. Other demands include inquiries into police tactics in responding to the demonstrations.
On Monday Hong Kong’s international airport, the world’s eighth-busiest by passenger traffic, canceled all flights after protestors occupied terminals.
‘Bravely standing up’
The U.S. relationship with Hong Kong is governed by the 1992 Hong Kong Policy Act, passed in advance of the territory’s return to Chinese rule two years later. Under it, the president may suspend privileges enjoyed by Hong Kong if he determines that it is not “sufficiently autonomous” from the mainland.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Monday pointed to legislation he and Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) have authored to reevaluate the bilateral relationship.
“America's relationship with Hong Kong is premised on its autonomy from China, and if the Communist Party refuses to ensure that autonomy then the United States should and will reevaluate that relationship,” he said.
“The people of Hong Kong are bravely standing up to the Chinese Communist Party as Beijing tries to encroach on their autonomy and freedom,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted. “Any violent crackdown would be completely unacceptable.”
“The U.S. has been making various Hong Kong-related accusations that are wanton, fact-distorting and inflammatory,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Monday.
She complained again about U.S. diplomats in Hong Kong meeting with pro-democracy activists – or what she called “anti-China rabble-rousers.”
“Hong Kong is part of China, and its affairs are entirely China’s internal affairs,” said Hua. “We urge the U.S. to observe international law and the basic norms governing international relations, and to stop interfering in China's internal affairs at once.”