China’s military presence in Hong Kong has more than doubled from estimates of 3,000 to 5,000 to somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 since the recent deployment of troops from mainland China in late August, according to statements several envoys to the city made to Reuters.
The Monday report pushes back against previous Chinese military statements and state media reports that described the movement as the 22nd annual rotation of troops at the PLA’s Hong Kong garrison.
Video:#PLA #HongKong Garrison conducted rotation of its members. The move is a normal routine annual rotation approved by Central Military Commission and in line with law. (Video via China National Radio) pic.twitter.com/JumKmGMB55— People's Daily, China (@PDChina) August 29, 2019
Late last month it was estimated that a total of 6,000 PLA-affiliated troops from mainland China arrived in Hong Kong via land and sea travel, triggering suspicions of a possible intervention by Beijing. Previous statements from Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam had only mentioned the possibility of seeking assistance from the Chinese military.
Five of the seven diplomats who spoke with Reuters said the People’s Armed Police (PAP), Beijing’s paramilitary-structured riot control unit, are included in the estimated totals and would be the troops designated to lead an interventionist operation.
Despite the bold claims by the government representatives, the outlet noted “the envoys declined to say how exactly they determined that the recent troop movement was a reinforcement or how they arrived at their troop estimates.”
While Lam had no comment on the allegations brought forward in the September 30 piece, a spokesperson with the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) informed Reuters that authorities are “capable of maintaining law and order and determined to restore public safety in Hong Kong.”
Hong Kong Security Bureau spokesman Lawrence Li also issued a statement, saying the garrison is acting “in strict accordance” with the law and that “details of the Garrison’s rotation, including the number of its members involved, are defence matters.”
However, even last month, PLA Lieutenant-Colonel Yang Zheng expressed in a PR video that the military had “learned about the situation in Hong Kong” and was engaged in relevant training “to make sure we can fulfill our defense duties.”
The extradition bill which sparked mass demonstrations in June has since been fully withdrawn by the Hong Kong government, but protesters are still demanding a third-party investigation into the alleged police brutality by members of the HKPF.
In addition to taking to the streets, some of those involved have taken their concerns to court. Last week, the father of a minor who was allegedly beaten by members of the HKPF Special Tactical Unit’s “raptor” division announced that he is suing the force and Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai Chung. In addition to seeking funds to pay for his son’s medical bills, the father made it clear that he is taking the matter to trial in order to learn more details about the August 31 Prince Edward Mass Transit Railway operation.