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Controversial move could exacerbate tensions in territory dealing with months of anti-government protests

Chinese troops in Hong Kong have been deployed to help clear roads blockaded by anti-government protesters in a controversial move that could escalate the already high tensions in the Chinese territory.

Dozens of soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), dressed in shorts and T-shirts, jogged from their barracks in Kowloon to the Hong Kong Baptist University where protesters had built barricades to stop riot police from entering the campus. Joining a group of residents, they moved desks, signposts, and bricks blocking a road.

Throughout the past five months of demonstrations, the possibility of military interference and the spectre of Beijing’s past violent crackdown on student demonstrators in 1989 hung over the city.

The PLA, which stations approximately 12,000 of it staff in Hong Kong, can only be deployed to help with disaster relief or to maintain public order if requested by the local government.

RTHK English News @rthk_enews

PLA soldiers are working at lightning speed to clear away bricks from the streets of Kowloon Tong. https://news.rthk.hk/rthk/en/component/k2/1492616-20191116.htm 

In the last 22 years since the former British colony was returned to Chinese control, the national military has only been seen on the streets once, to help with cleanup operations after a typhoon last year.

Experts say it is unlikely China would resort to such an extreme measure, which would invite widespread international condemnation. Beijing has repeatedly said it stands behind the Hong Kong government and police to handle the crisis.

On Thursday the Chinese leader Xi Jinping made his his most direct remarks on the crisis, calling on Hong Kong to “restore order” and “severely punish violent criminals”.

Anti-government protesters clash with the police outside the Polytechnic University in Hong Kong.

Anti-government protesters clash with the police outside the Polytechnic University in Hong Kong. Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

Sorgente: Hong Kong: Chinese troops deployed to help clear roadblocks | World news | The Guardian

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