Using force to quell Hong Kong protests unlikely: Expert

Sending Chinese troops to Hong Kong to contain the over-two-month long protests may be the last option, a political commentator said.

“That is why local government on Tuesday said it is confident to tackle the ongoing protest by legal means,” said Chien-Yu Shih, a Taiwanese scholar who teaches at Hong Kong Chuhai College.

The use of military force, he said, in the financial hub could result in international intervention, especially from the U.S. and the other G7 members.

Hong Kong, an autonomous region of China, has been hit by mass protests since early June against a now suspended bill which would have allowed extradition of criminal suspects to the mainland. The protests have turned violent from time to time as protesters and police forces engaged in fierce clashes.

Last Saturday, a policeman fired a live bullet at protesters who allegedly chased him on the streets. On the same day, police also used water cannons to disperse the protesters.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam told reporters on Tuesday that her government will deal with the protests “by ourselves”.

So far, all overtures for mediation have failed with protesters who are calling for an end to police brutality.

“The Hong Kong government and the protesters cannot find any common ground, especially [because] there is no trust at all towards the authority,” said Shih.

For now, Lam has suspended the reading of the bill for an infinite time but did not completely withdraw it.

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian said last month that mainland can deploy troops “to maintain social order” in Hong Kong if the local government requests.

China’s restrain

On how Beijing sees the demonstrations which have challenged Chinese authority, Shih said: “Beijing authority has been performing rationally and pretty restraining without sending troops.

“Hong Kong still serves a financial hub for China and the world; commitment of ‘One Country – Two Systems’ is also a political framework to unify Taiwan but use of force implies the failure of that commitment, and [possible] international intervention, especially from the U.S. and the other G7 members,” said Shih, who is also secretary-general of the Taiwan-based Association of Central Asian Studies.

China maintains a garrison in Hong Kong where Chinese military personnel are deployed, popularly known as the “People’s Liberation Army’s Hong Kong garrison”. The law allows Hong Kong to ask for their assistance in maintenance of public order.

“However, a military suppression will invite international sanctions,” he said adding: “Using force to quell Hong Kong protests unlikely to be an option.”

He said that on Aug. 7 a meeting was called in Shenzhen city where Beijing asked hundreds of Hong Kong’s “political elites and business tycoons […] for their full support on the policy Beijing was going to lay down”.

Beijing has lost trust in Hong Kong government and was looking to use force to suppress the protests, he said.

The anti-extradition protests started in early June and have been going on for the last 80 days. The demonstrators have put forward five demands to the Lam government.

The demands include “full withdrawal of the extradition bill; an independent commission of inquiry into alleged police brutality; retracting classification of protesters as ‘rioters’; amnesty for arrested protesters, and dual universal suffrage both for Legislative Council and the Chief Executive”.


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