Security Bureau says no need to ask PLA garrison for help

July 25, 2019 15:57
A flag-raising ceremony at the PLA Barracks on Stonecutters Island. China's defense ministry said the military may be deployed to help maintain public order in Hong Kong upon the request of the SAR government. Photo: Bloomberg

The Hong Kong SAR government said it can handle its own affairs and keep law and order after China said deploying its military to maintain public order in the city cannot be ruled out.

Responding to an inquiry from the Hong Kong Economic Journal, the Security Bureau said on Wednesday there is no need to ask the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Garrison in Hong Kong for assistance as the government is capable of maintaining law and order, the HKEJ reports.

Massive demonstrations against the government's now-suspended extradition bill have continued for weeks, some of which ended in violence and vandalism, as Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor refused to withdraw the legislation altogether and establish an independent commission of inquiry to look into recent clashes between protesters and police.

Wu Qian, a spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense, told a press conference in Beijing on Wednesday that the ministry is closely following the developments in Hong Kong, citing in particular the attack on the central government’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong on Sunday.

The actions of some radical protesters, such as vandalizing the Liaison Office, is challenging the “authority” of the central government and the “bottom line” of the “one country, two systems” principle, Wu said, adding that such actions are "absolutely intolerable".

He said Hong Kong, billed as the "Pearl of the Orient", cannot be tainted.

Asked by media if the PLA will be deployed to handle recent developments in the city, Wu said there is clear stipulation in Chinese law regarding the garrisoning of the special administrative region.

Under Article 14 of Chapter III of the law, and pursuant to the provisions of the Basic Law, the HKSAR government may, when necessary, ask the central government "for assistance from the Hong Kong Garrison in the maintenance of public order and in disaster relief."

After the central government approves the SAR government's application, the Hong Kong garrison will follow the order from the Central Military Commission to send out the troops to carry out the task of helping maintain public order.

After the task has been accomplished, the troops would return to their station immediately.

When the troops are carrying out tasks, they would be under the command of the Hong Kong garrison's highest commander, or an officer authorized by them, with arrangements made by the HKSAR government. The troops will exercise the power under the law of the HKSAR.

Commenting on Wu’s remarks, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip Tak-kuen said the defense ministry just pointed out relevant provisions in the Garrison Law and relevant arrangements in the Basic Law.

Nip added that he believes the government has responded to social divisions and contradictions in the most balanced and feasible way, although not everyone is satisfied.

The most important thing is that violent acts should not happen, and all violent acts are unacceptable, Nip said, adding that he hopes everyone will keep a cool head when handling the situation.

Calling Beijing’s concern about the storming of the Liaison Office normal, Lau Siu-kai, vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, said it doesn't mean that the Hong Kong Garrison is set to make a move to quell the chaos.

He said there is absolutely no need to worry that the military will intervene in the extradition bill saga.

Violent incidents seen recently were caused by only a small group of radicals, and the local police force, with 30,000 disciplined officers in its charge, is able to sufficiently deal with them, Lau said.

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