The recent arrival of an armored vehicle fleet in Shenzhen has fuelled speculation among netizens that China might be preparing to show force and possibly intervene in the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.
In the clips that have been widely shared online, dozens of trucks and armored vehicles are shown lining up next to the entrance of the Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre in Nanshan District, which is situated across the harbor from Hong Kong.
Military personnel can also be seen standing by the sports center’s entrances, although civilians can freely enter it. When some of them were asked for details about their stay in Shenzhen, they just shook their heads and said nothing, reports South China Morning Post.
Incidentally, the post coincides with a statement from the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office on Monday that called attacks by protesters on local police “signs of terrorism.”
A Beijing-based military expert has since stated that the convoy of vehicles should not be a cause for concern. According to military specialist Zhou Chenming, the movements of the military vehicles were merely part of regular exercises and had no connection with what’s going on in Hong Kong.
“The central government has repeatedly stated it will only interfere if there are large-scale riots and the Hong Kong government has applied voluntarily for support,” Chenming was quoted as saying.
“If the situation does not reach that point, then this is only a deterrence measure, to deter these [small group of people] from stepping over the line.”
In video: Chinese armed police armored vehicle fleet is prepared for a drill in Shenzhen, S China’s Guangdong province. pic.twitter.com/bU4IxhaM0s
— People’s Daily, China (@PDChina) August 12, 2019
This was echoed by government-run media outlets People’s Daily and Global Times which claimed that the military presence was in preparation for large-scale drills.
While video footage of the trucks began circulating online on Saturday, the Chinese platforms posted their own videos of the convoy on Monday. Online users have since been commenting on social media that the armed presence was a blatant show of force to the demonstrators in Hong Kong.
“They are just waiting for an order before they’ll drive to Hong Kong to calm the riots. We hope the armed forces can enter Hong Kong and beat the hell out of these idiotic youth,” one Weibo user commented.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology political science professor Dixon Sing Ming views the move as a “psychological warfare tactic” by Beijing.
“The drill is part and parcel of a well-coordinated attempt by Beijing to pressure the protesters and the general public to give up their five demands, including the one for universal suffrage immediately,” Sing said.
Just last week, 12,000 police officers gathered in Shenzhen for a drill purportedly as part of security preparations for the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic on October 1.
However, many have pointed out that the drill included anti-riot measures similar to those employed in Hong Kong in the past weeks.
Featured Image via Twitter / People’s Daily, China