BEIJING (AP) — China’s Defense Ministry pointed Wednesday to an article in Hong Kong law that allows the army to step in upon request during public security incidents, as tumult in the city amid summer-long protests has fueled fears that the military will intervene.
In answering a question at a news briefing about how the ministry will respond to rising “independence forces” in the Chinese territory, ministry spokesman Wu Qian did not explicitly state what might happen, but pointed to Article 14 of Hong Kong’s Garrison Law.
The article stipulates that Hong Kong’s government may ask for assistance from Chinese military troops stationed in the city “in the maintenance of public order” or in disaster relief. If the central government approves the request for help, the troops will perform the tasks and return to their stations once they are completed, the article says.
“The behavior of some radical demonstrators challenging the authority of the central government and touching the bottom line of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle is absolutely intolerable,” Wu said.
Hong Kong residents have taken to the streets in droves since early last month to protest an extradition bill and call for democratic reforms. After the end of a pro-democracy march that drew more than 100,000 people on Sunday, some demonstrators directed their ire at the Liaison Office, which represents China’s Communist Party-led central government in Hong Kong.
The protesters threw eggs and splattered black ink at the Chinese national emblem on the building facade — acts that Beijing condemned as “violent.”
A former British colony, Hong Kong is a territory that was returned to China in 1997. The “one country, two systems” principle promises the city certain freedoms not afforded mainland citizens, but Hong Kong residents say their liberties have been steadily eroding in recent years as Beijing’s role in its affairs has grown.