The Hong Kong government has said it will not ask for assistance from the Chinese army stationed in the city to handle protests.

After anti-extradition law protesters vandalised the exterior of Beijing’s office in Hong Kong on Sunday, a spokesperson for China’s defence ministry was asked by reporters how the defence ministry planned to tackle Hong Kong’s “separatists.” The spokesperson cited article 14 of the Garrison Law but did not elaborate.

According to the law, the Hong Kong government may, when necessary, ask the central government for assistance from the People’s Liberation Army stationed in the city “in the maintenance of public order and in disaster relief.”

People's Liberation Army Garrison Hong Kong
Protesters passing through outside the People’s Liberation Army Garrison in Hong Kong. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

If the request is approved, the troops must work according to the orders of the Central Military Commission, and shall “immediately return to their station after the task has been accomplished.”

The troops would be under the command of the garrison’s highest commander, or any officer authorised by them, with the arrangements made by the Hong Kong government.

A spokesperson for the Hong Kong government said in response to media enquiries that it has no need to ask for assistance from the garrison: “The HKSAR government has the ability to properly handle the internal affairs of the HKSAR, to maintain Hong Kong’s order,” they said.

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Photo: May James/HKFP.

Following the storming of the Legislative Council by protesters on July 1, the government issued a statement on July 2 denying a report that claimed the chief executive had requested the People’s Liberation Army to assist in handling the recent conflicts.

“A Government spokesman clarifies that the report is totally unfounded. The Government spokesman expressed deep regret over the untrue report by the media outlet involved,” it said.

On Tuesday, the Hong Kong government issued another statement refuting rumours that Chinese army officers were guarding the China Liaison Office, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s office in Hong Kong, the Chief Executive’s Office and the Legislative Council Complex.

“The claims are totally unfounded,” it said.

Jim McGovern Marco Rubio
Jim McGovern and Marco Rubio. Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture/Gage Skidmore.

US Representative Jim McGovern and Senator Marco Rubio, chairs of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, issued a joint statement on Thursday urging the US government to condemn the threat to deploy the People’s Liberation Army in Hong Kong.

“Threats of intervention by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Hong Kong are unacceptable and needlessly escalate tensions. Escalation of violence – whether on the part of organized crime thugs or the PLA – will only further undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and rule of law,” they said. “Instead, the Hong Kong government should listen to the legitimate grievances of Hong Kongers and enter into substantive discussions.”

They said they stood with peaceful protesters in Hong Kong.

“The Trump Administration should strongly and publicly condemn any threats to Hong Kong citizens and U.S. residents of Hong Kong. We also ask the Hong Kong government to condemn the Chinese government’s threats as unwelcome interference in Hong Kong’s affairs.”

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.