U.S. congressmen on Aug. 14 warned the Chinese regime against ordering a Tiananmen Square-style crackdown in response to the Hong Kong protests, as footage emerged of convoys of Chinese armored vehicles amassing near the border with Hong Kong, while Beijing ramped up its rhetoric against protesters.
Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and the committee’s lead Republican Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said that any such violent action by the Chinese regime would be met with “swift consequences.”
“30 years after the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) brutal massacre of peaceful democratic protesters in Tiananmen Square, we are concerned that China would consider again brutally putting down peaceful protests. We urge China to avoid making such a mistake, which would be met with universal condemnation and swift consequences,” the lawmakers said in a statement.
Engel and McCaul said the committee has asked Beijing to “cease encroaching on Hong Kong’s autonomy,” adding that “It is Beijing’s actions that are at the root of the frustration among the people of Hong Kong.”
“No foreign powers are fomenting this dissent. It is the result of Beijing’s successive violations of their commitment to honor the will of the people of Hong Kong,” they said, referring to Beijing’s narrative that “foreign forces” are behind the city’s unrest.
The congressmen applauded the efforts of Hongkongers “who have demonstrated their clear desire for freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.”
The protests, which have continued for over two months, began in opposition to an extradition bill that would allow people to be transferred to the mainland for trial. They have since morphed to include wider calls for democracy and an investigation into police brutality.
Recent escalations in violence during clashes between protesters and police, such as police firing tear gas inside a subway station and shooting rubber bullets at protesters at close range, have drawn widespread condemnation by Western officials and international bodies.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Aug. 13 said intelligence informed him that Chinese authorities were moving its troops to the border with Hong Kong, after large-scale demonstrations at the Hong Kong International Airport brought one of the world’s busiest transport hubs to a standstill. The airport authority had canceled flights after thousands of protesters showed up to inform travelers about their demands.
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
— Alexandre Krauss (@AlexandreKrausz) August 12, 2019
Chinese state media recently published footage showing a convoy of armored vehicles of the China’s paramilitary, the People’s Armed Police, rolling through the streets of Shenzhen, a city bordering Hong Kong, while satellite photos appear to show the vehicles amassing at a sports stadium in Shenzhen.
State media has indicated that the mobilization was in anticipation of large-scale drills.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson said on Aug. 14 that the United States is “deeply concerned” by reports of the Chinese paramilitary’s movements.
“The United States strongly urges Beijing to adhere to its commitments in the Sino-British Joint Declaration to allow Hong Kong to exercise a high degree of autonomy,” the spokesperson said.
“As the President noted, we urge all sides to engage peacefully and refrain from violence.”
The Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed in 1984, set out terms of the city’s handover from British to Chinese rule, and allowed for the city to retain its extensive freedoms and autonomy under a framework known as “one country, two systems.”
The spokesperson also rejected Beijing’s “false charge of foreign forces as black hand[s] behind the protests.” The Chinese regime has recently escalated its rhetoric against Hong Kong protesters, labelling them violent criminals in need of punishment, while describing the protest movement as “budding terrorism.” The Chinese regime has used the pretext of fighting terrorism to suppress ethnic minorities and religious groups in the regions of Xinjiang and Tibet.
The State Department spokesperson encouraged Beijing and all parties in Hong Kong to reach a solution that respects the liberty of Hongkongers and the city’s autonomy.
“We condemn violence and urge all sides to exercise restraint, but remain staunch in our support for freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly in Hong Kong. The ongoing demonstrations in Hong Kong reflect the sentiment of Hongkongers and their broad and legitimate concerns about the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy.”