Large-scale anti-Beijing protests have gripped Hong Kong since July 1st. The protests, which Hong Kong police have been working to break up, have become increasingly violent, and have threatened to become even larger after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hopes China does the “right thing,” and that the “protest is appropriate.” China quickly accused the U.S. of meddling in their affairs.
Now, it’s being reported that a massive build up of China’s military forces are suddenly rallying on the border near Hong Kong.
News.com.au reports – The White House is monitoring the sudden “congregation” of Chinese forces at the border with Hong Kong, according to reports, following another night of unrest and clashes between protesters and police.
A senior US official who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity said a number of units had gathered, but it’s unclear if they are security police or part of China’s military, Bloomberg reports.
It comes as Beijing accused the United States of inciting the increasingly unruly protests in Hong Kong, which began two months ago over a proposed extradition bill that could see citizens sent to the mainland.
Since then, demonstrations have evolved into a statement against Beijing’s influence in the operation of the relatively autonomous region.
Bloomberg cites the White House official as saying the US is watching China’s mainland border maneuvers. Reports of the gathering of forces have sparked panic among Hong Kong locals on social media.
Last night’s unannounced protest follows demonstrations on Sunday that saw police deploy tear gas and scuffle with people who assembled in the streets.
“Hong Kong police know the law and break the law,” protesters chanted as they made their way through the streets.
The extradition bill that sparked the start of protests in June has been suspended, but opponents are now demanding it be scrapped entirely.
Protesters in Hong Kong stand outside a courthouse in Sai Wan Ho, awaiting the fate of 44 protesters charged with rioting, while T8 typhoon conditions can be seen pounding down on the activists.
Outside Eastern Magistrates Court in Sai Wan Ho, protesters awaiting the 44 people inside facing a judge over rioting charge…in T8 typhoon conditions pic.twitter.com/jY2tZAElUv
— G-DLEE (@JournoDannyAero) July 31, 2019
Bloomberg reports that the Chinese Foreign Minister spokeswoman is blaming the U.S. for the protests, calling it a “creation of the U.S.”
The mainland government said Tuesday that violence in Hong Kong was a “creation of the U.S.,” a charge the administration official denied.
The developments come as President Donald Trump seeks a trade deal with China and just as the two nations resumed negotiations in Shanghai. Trump has spoken only sparingly about the protests, praising Chinese President Xi Jinping for his restraint. But it’s unclear how much planning the U.S. has done to prepare for possible Chinese military intervention in Hong Kong.
U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo urged the Chinese on Monday to “do the right thing” in managing the protests in Hong Kong, which began more than eight weeks ago, after the city-state’s executive, Carrie Lam, tried to win passage of a law allowing extraditions to the mainland.
Hua, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, responded to Pompeo on Tuesday by blaming the U.S. for the protests.
“It’s clear that Mr. Pompeo has put himself in the wrong position and still regards himself as the head of the CIA,” Hua said, referring to Pompeo’s previous role at the intelligence agency. “He might think that violent activities in Hong Kong are reasonable because after all, this is the creation of the U.S.”
“With respect to Hong Kong, this is the people of Hong Kong asking their government to listen to them,” he said. “So it’s always appropriate for every government to listen to their people.”
Paul Sullivan, an international security expert at the National Defense University, said that China views the situation in terms of its long-term impact on the regime’s central power.
“The Chinese most likely have a very long-term perspective on this, and they aren’t going to be one China and two systems anymore,” Sullivan said. “My sense is that they want to completely chew up Hong Kong and make it part of the central part of China, maybe to improve their trading and economic base.”
Charles Lipson, a political science professor at the University of Chicago, said the U.S.’s options to intervene would be limited.
“There’s very little the U.S. can do, should do, or will want to do prior to a major crackdown,” Lipson said. “After which the U.S. will complain mightily but from the point of view of the U.S., there’s essentially nothing that can be done if the Chinese want to crack down on Hong Kong.”
The New York Post reported about the protests when they began on July 1 – Hong Kong protesters marked the 22nd anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese rule by bursting into the legislative building amid widespread anger over proposed laws that would allow extraditions to the mainland.
In a direct challenge to Beijing, black-clad protesters wearing hard hats and face masks smashed a big hole through the bottom of a window at the government headquarters, known as the Legislative Council.
The demonstrators cheered and waved umbrellas as they took control of the ravaged building, where riot police had stood guard hours earlier, according to CNN.
The former British colony has been wracked by weeks of protests over a government attempt to change extradition laws to allow suspects to be sent to China to face trial.
The proposed legislation — on which debate has been suspended indefinitely — ramped up fears of eroding freedoms in the territory, which Britain returned to China on July 1, 1997.
Protesters want the bills withdrawn and Hong Kong’s beleaguered leader, Carrie Lam, to resign amid a backlash for trying to push the legislation through.