A massive convoy of armoured vehicles, trucks, and other vehicles belonging to China’s paramilitary
People’s Action Party People’s Armed Police (PAP), has assembled in the city of Shenzhen, less than 20 miles to the northwest of Hong Kong, where protests have persisted for over 2 months now.
Chinese authorities claimed that the deployment was merely part of a “scheduled exercise”, but it comes after the Chinese Government labeled the demonstrations as “acts of terrorism,” a heavy-handed statement that many have interpreted as a threat of an imminent crackdown.
“In the past few days, Hong Kong’s radical demonstrators have repeatedly attacked police officers with extremely dangerous tools, which already constitutes serious violent crimes and has begun to show signs of terrorism,”Yang Guang, spokesperson for the Chinese State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office
The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party published official videos of the convoy, describing the event as “preparations for a major drill”. However neither party officials nor paramilitary authorities explained what the “major drill” would entail.
Images and footage of the PAP vehicles began circulating on social media on Aug 12. Some of the vehicles that were spotted included WZ-551 armored personnel carriers with bulldozer blades and construction equipment meant for demolishing barricades.
Convoy a psychological scare tactic?
The show of force is likely to be just that, some experts quoted by SCMP said. With fears of a Tiananmen-style crackdown in the streets of Hong Kong, amassing troops and armored vehicles along the border may be a psychological scare tactic to force the more violent factions of Hong Kong protesters to deescalate. This theory was posited by Dixon Sing Ming, a political-science professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
Another Beijing-based military specialist, Zhou Chenming, added that people should not feel nervous about the convoy, given that the Central Government has stated it will only interfere if large scale riots break out and the Hong Kong Government explicitly calls for help.
Indeed, Beijing has thus far shown considerable restraint. Its response to Tiananmen 30 years ago was markedly more belligerent with the Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) intervening against a far more peaceful movement. One could argue that the protests took place in the heart of China’s capital – where more was a stake symbolically and where the Chinese Government could operate freely.