As Chinese armoured military vehicles mass on the country’s south eastern border there is a “real possibility” Beijing will join forces with Hong Kong police to crack down on mass anti-government protests, an expert has warned.
While Beijing has “showed quite a lot of restraint” in its handling of the tense situation in Hong Kong, “I don’t see how things are going to de-escalate” Dr Sow Keat Tok from the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute told The New Daily.
“I do see things getting worse rather than getting better.”
But it is “very unlikely” China will take matters into its own hands and intervene without Hong Kong’s invitation, Dr Tok said.
China does not want to be seen as undermining the “one country, two systems” political arrangement forged in 1997 to afford Beijing ultimate sovereignty on military and foreign affairs matters.
Still, Beijing would mobilise the People’s Liberation Army in Hong Kong if the region’s embattled leader Carrie Lam extended an invitation to China to send in paramilitary forces, Dr Tok said.
It would most likely be to help riot police quell pro-democracy protests through the use of crowd-control equipment such as tear gas.
Beijing won’t be looking for a repeat of the bloody military crackdown at Tiananmen Square in 1989 where thousands of Chinese troops, many in armoured military vehicles, opened fire on pro-democracy activists.
“That was a moment where the lack of training on domestic unrest may have showed itself to the rest of the world,” Dr Tok said.
This week, Chinese soldiers waving red flags were photographed marching at a sports stadium in Shenzhen, a city bordering Hong Kong.
Footage released by China’s state-run media further showed the army undertaking military exercises.
It is estimated dozens of armoured vehicles and thousands of troops congregated across from Hong Kong to warn of a looming intervention.
After weeks of tense and sometimes violent protests in Hong Kong, international rallies have seen support for both sides.
The arm wrestle reached Australia with protests in most major capital cities. Two men were interviewed by police after a clash between pro-Hong Kong and pro-China demonstrators at a rally in Melbourne’s CBD on Friday night.
On Saturday an anti-Hong Kong democracy rally turned ugly in Sydney’s CBD. Protesters shouted jingoistic slogans and two men were escorted away by police after they were confronted by rally attendees.
The protesters, most of them believed to be migrants from mainland China, attended the rally to support Beijing’s policies in Hong Kong.
But on the ground where it counts, Beijing’s military display is mostly a scare tactic to calm down protestors, Dr Tok said.
The use of Chinese forces in Hong Kong is unlikely under the watchful eyes of the United States, Europe and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Dr Lai-Ha Chan from the University of Technology Sydney told The New Daily.
She said the Communist Party wants to celebrate its 70th anniversary “honourably” and won’t want to derail Taiwan’s presidential and legislative elections in January 2020.
“Any military intervention will be seriously condemned by democratic countries and their leaders might boycott the 70th anniversary celebration in Beijing,” Dr Chan said.
“More importantly it will only help the Democratic Progressive Party or pro-independent politicians in Taiwan win their election.”
But Dr Chan suspects “violence will likely continue”.
Hundreds of pro-Hong Kong protestors gathered in Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday morning for a peaceful show of solidarity after a Friday rally turned ugly.
Violent clashes erupted following the arrival of some 100 pro-China protesters, forcing police to move in on the rival groups which were videoed pushing and shoving one another.
It came after Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged anyone wishing to protest to do so peacefully and “for that to be respected”.
“We just simply want to see the tensions de-escalate there, and so people can just go along about their peaceful lives,” he said while in Tuvulu for the Pacific Island Forum.