As protests erupted again over the weekend in Hong Kong, there are new reports that Beijing quietly doubled troop levels in the city ahead of China celebrating its 70th anniversary of communist rule this week, reported Reuters.
Chinese military personnel in Hong Kong doubled last month to 10,000 to 12,000, up from 3,000 to 5,000 the months before, Asian and Western envoys in Hong Kong told Reuters.
Reinforcements arrived in military trucks, armored vehicles, buses, and ships, around the mid/late August period.
Envoy sources told Reuters that the "late-August deployment was not a rotation at all, but a reinforcement."
They said China has now "assembled its largest-ever active force of People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops and other anti-riot personnel and equipment in Hong Kong."
The rapid build-up includes personnel from the People's Armed Police (PAP), a Chinese paramilitary police force responsible for internal security, riot control, and counter-terrorism. Sources weren't able to determine the exact PAP size, but said, the bulk of "reinforcements" in Hong Kong are PLA/PAP.
News of the reinforcements come as protests flared up last weekend ahead of the week-long celebration, starting Tuesday, Oct. 1, that marks the founding of the People's Republic of China.
Intense clashes were reported on Sunday.
Things in Hong Kong ramping up ahead of the PRC’s 70th anniversary pic.twitter.com/loV92SV9yA— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) September 30, 2019
The troop build-up shows Beijing is preparing to act if the Hong Kong government loses control in the next wave of demonstrations.
VIDEO: 🇭🇰 Fierce clashes broke out between protesters and riot police in #HongKong Sunday as thousands marched through the city, during a day of global protests aimed at casting a shadow over Tuesday's 70th anniversary of communist China's founding #HongKongProtests pic.twitter.com/iRuFfiQKnd— AFP news agency (@AFP) September 30, 2019
Reuters notes that PAP's presence in Hong Kong had been limited before August. The state-controlled press hasn't covered the new deployment.
One foreign analyst indicates that reinforcements are very troubling and outlines how Beijing is preparing for the worst-case scenario.
"They do seem to have an active contingency plan to deal with something like a total breakdown in order by the Hong Kong police," said Alexander Neill, a Singapore-based security analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. "I would think it would take something like that or some other worst-case scenario for them to deploy. But they are clearly more ready than before, and are leaving nothing to chance."
Sources said the new reinforcements haven't been deployed into the streets; most are confined to their barracks, waiting for orders to secure downtown if the next wave of protests gets out of handle.
There were no indications from Reuters, nor their sources if the PLA/PAP were deployed over the weekend.
Police arrested more than 150 protestors over the weekend. Videos showed violence between police and protesters flared up on Sunday.
Despite the Hong Kong Police Force banning demonstrations on Tuesday, protestors are expected to hit the streets of Hong Kong during the start of celebrations, something that will make Beijing furious.
Editor-in-chief of the Global Times, Hu Xijin, tweeted Monday morning that Hong Kong police, citing sources, expect that "core rioters are planning serious violence on Oct 1, including killing police officers, disguising as police killing people, arson inside mall. Mob are also recruiting suicide attackers."
HK police said, citing intelligence, that core rioters are planning serious violence on Oct 1, including killing police officers, disguising as police killing people, arson inside mall. Mob are also recruiting suicide attackers. Does the West support such 'democratic protest'? pic.twitter.com/E9aiS2tEy6— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) September 30, 2019
If police are right about an upcoming escalation in protests on Tuesday, it's like the PLA/PAP will be deployed.