China yesterday described unrest in Hong Kong as a sign of “terrorism emerging”, as state media published a video of armoured personnel carriers purportedly driving towards a city bordering the territory.
Beijing slammed violent protesters who it said had thrown petrol bombs at police officers and linked them to “terrorism” in Hong Kong, where weeks of pro-democracy demonstrations have posed the biggest challenge to Chinese rule since the territory’s 1997 British handover.
“Hong Kong’s radical demonstrators have repeatedly used extremely dangerous tools to attack police officers, which already constitutes a serious violent crime, and also shows the first signs of terrorism emerging,” said Yang Guang, spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council. “This wantonly tramples on Hong Kong’s rule of law and social order,” he said at a press briefing in Beijing.
Later yesterday two state media outlets, the nationalistic tabloid Global Times and the People’s Daily ran a minute-long video compiling clips of armoured personnel carriers and troop carriers purportedly driving to Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong.
The video shows roughly two dozen armoured carriers apparently driving through the southern city of Guangzhou and other troop carriers leaving eastern Fujian province. The People’s Armed Police (PAP) are in charge of “handling riots, turmoil, seriously violent, criminal activities, terrorist attacks and other societal security incidents”, the People’s Daily said in text accompanying the video.
The PAP are assembling in Shenzhen, “a city bordering Hong Kong, in advance of apparent large-scale exercises”, the Global Times said.
Beijing’s warnings come a day after thousands of pro-democracy protesters defied warnings from authorities to hit the streets for the 10th weekend in a row.
Hong Kong police fired volleys of teargas on Sunday at demonstrators after denying their requests for permits to stage a march, and yesterday authorities took the unprecedented step of closing the airport as thousands gathered for new protests.
But Yang focused on the violent behaviour of a “tiny minority”, which he condemned as “a serious challenge to Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.”
The two-month crisis, which was triggered by opposition to a planned extradition law, has morphed into a wider movement for democratic reform and a halt to eroding freedoms.
It is the biggest threat to Beijing’s rule of the semi-autonomous southern Chinese city since its handover from Britain in 1997 — and has drawn repeated criticism but no forceful actions yet from the central Chinese government.