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China warns Hong Kong: troops can arrive in 10 minutes

Chinese military have posted a social media message containing that Chinese troops are at the ready at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center, and warns they can arrive in Hong Kong within 10 minutes.

The warning was widely viewed as a threat toward Hong Kong protesters, who have staged large-scale demonstrations throughout the city since June, in opposition to an extradition bill that would allow mainland China to seek extradition of individuals to be trialed in its opaque legal system.

The Eastern Theater Command, one of five regional divisions of the Chinese military, known officially as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), posted the following message on its official WeChat account, “People’s Frontline,” on Aug. 14: “The Shenzhen Bay Sports Center is 56 kilometers (34.8 miles) away from the Hong Kong airport. Troops only need 10 minutes to arrive at the Hong Kong [border].” Protesters have recently staged a multi-day sit-in at the airport in an effort to inform international travelers about their demands for the Hong Kong government to fully withdraw the bill.

Satellite images collected on Aug. 12 by Maxar, a space tech company, appear to confirm that 500 or more armored vehicles from China’s paramilitary force are sitting on and around the soccer stadium at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center.

Loaded Message

The WeChat post also included an explanation of “ seven points of common knowledge,” hinting at the Chinese authorities’ capability to send troops to Hong Kong in the event of a crisis.

“According to item 18 of the Hong Kong Basic Law [the city’s constitution], if the Hong Kong government cannot control turmoil that threatens national unity or national security, the [rubber-stamp legislature] National People’s Congress has the right to declare that Hong Kong is in a state of emergency. Then, Beijing can issue an order to implement relevant national laws in Hong Kong,” it warned.

Beijing officials and Chinese state-run media have recently called the Hong Kong protests “budding terrorism,” while state media have recently published footage of the paramilitary’s armored vehicles going through the city of Shenzhen to gather for large-scale exercises.

The PLA ended with an ominous message: it noted that according to the lunar calendar, Aug. 8 was the beginning of autumn. Locusts die in autumn due to the seasonal changes and a lack of food sources, it explained. Accompanying the long post was a photo of a locust, marked with the Chinese characters “poisonous Hongkongers,” to insinuate that Hong Kong protesters would disappear like locusts soon.

US Response

U.S. President Donald Trump in a Twitter message on Aug. 13, also appeared to confirm China’s mobilization: “Our Intelligence has informed us that the Chinese Government is moving troops to the Border with Hong Kong. Everyone should be calm and safe!”

The U.S. State Department soon reacted with alarm. A spokesperson replied to The Epoch Times via email on Aug. 14: “The United States is deeply concerned by reports of Chinese paramilitary movement along the Hong Kong border…We condemn violence and urge all sides to exercise restraint.”

The United States also said it would “remain staunch in our support for freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly in Hong Kong.”

U.S. lawmakers across the aisle also recently rebuked Beijing for its veiled threats at a Hong Kong crackdown.

At an Aug. 13 press conference, Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry, angrily denounced the lawmakers’ comments.

“They even incited the Hong Kong residents to engage in confrontation with the [Hong Kong] government and the central government,” Hua said. “How anxious are they to instigate and see chaos.” Beijing has consistently pushed the narrative that foreign governments are behind the protests challenging Beijing’s authority.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also voiced his support for Hongkongers on Twitter: “The people of Hong Kong are bravely standing up to the Chinese Communist Party as Beijing tries to encroach on their autonomy and freedom. Any violent crackdown would be completely unacceptable. As I have said on the Senate floor: The world is watching.”

–Nichole Had | EPTimes