Regional tensions lead to China nixing Hong Kong port visits by two US Navy ships.
When I began covering the protests in Hong Kong, I noted that China had two options for dealing with the city-state’s citizens and their demands for freedom and justice: Cooperation or crackdown.
Clearly, the decision has been made.
Large numbers of Chinese paramilitary forces have been filmed assembling just 30km (18.6 miles) from Hong Kong in the city of Shenzhen, as riot police clashed with protesters occupying the airport for a second day.
The scuffles broke out in the evening between police and protesters, after paramedics attempted to reach an injured man whom protesters had detained on suspicion of being an undercover agent.
The burst of violence included protesters beating up at least two men they suspected of being undercover agents. Police have acknowledged using “decoy” officers, and the violence followed weekend sightings of men dressed like demonstrators – in black and wearing face masks – appearing to arrest protesters.
In both instances, angry demonstrators pushed past people trying to hold them back and attacked the men, binding their wrists together and beating them to the ground. The two were eventually taken away by paramedics.
This information is supported by President Donald Trump’s message, “Our Intelligence has informed us that the Chinese Government is moving troops to the Border with Hong Kong. Everyone should be calm and safe!”
Our Intelligence has informed us that the Chinese Government is moving troops to the Border with Hong Kong. Everyone should be calm and safe!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 13, 2019
In fact, Chinese propaganda outlets warned that protesters in Hong Kong are “asking for self-destruction,” as they released a video showing military vehicles amassing near the border of the city.
Additionally, U.S. officials say the Chinese government has denied requests for two U.S. Navy ships to make port visits to Hong Kong.
Cmdr. Nate Christensen, deputy spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said Tuesday said the amphibious transport dock ship Green Bay had been scheduled to visit Hong Kong on Aug. 17 and the guided-missile cruiser Lake Erie was scheduled to visit in September.
Christensen said it was up to China to say why it denied the requests.
He said the U.S. Navy expects port visits to Hong Kong to resume. The last Navy ship to visit was the 7th Fleet’s flagship Blue Ridge in April 2019.
Finally, it appears that the airport protests will continue.
Anti-government protesters clashed with Hong Kong riot police on Tuesday, crippling the airport for the second straight day and targeting a potent symbol of the city’s position as a global center of commerce and finance that is essential to China.
The mass protests have forced the airport to suspend check-ins, creating long delays for passengers and forcing airlines to cancel hundreds of flights over the past two days. The disruptions were expected to continue through Wednesday.
The protests at the airport are deeply tactical, as the largely leaderless movement strikes at a vital economic artery.
I sure hope our leaders are planning what to do if China goes full Tiananmen Square in Hong Kong.
“Beijing wants to use the threat of sending in the PLA, or other direct intervention, to try to scare off the protesters,” said Ben Bland, research fellow at the Lowy Institute in Sydney.
“But given the high level of operational risk – and the reputational and economic risks to China – sending in the PLA would be a dangerous move,” Bland said.
China’s brutal 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square resulted in two years of economic near-stagnation as the country became an international pariah.
The fallout from any similar intervention in Hong Kong would be far more severe.
The long-term stability of the international financial hub is crucial to China’s economic well-being, and images of Chinese troops or riot police on the streets would be broadcast and live-streamed around the world.
I am not consoled by the “economic protection” the city’s international status offers. I sense China is entirely willing to gamble that any potential brutality and suppression will be conveniently forgotten in due time.
However, for the time being, Hong Kong’s cries for freedom continue.
Protesters in Hong Kong waving the American flag and singing the American National anthem as they advocate for democracy. Wow! pic.twitter.com/CKyFstud22
— Kaya Jones (@KayaJones) August 12, 2019
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