The head of China’s military garrison in Hong Kong has reportedly condemned anti-government protesters and warned that violence will not be tolerated.
In his first comments on the demonstrations that have rocked the city since June, Chen Daoxiang told a reception in Hong Kong late Wednesday that there had recently been “a series of extremely violent incidents,” according to the South China Morning Post.
The reception was to mark the 70th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
“This has damaged the prosperity and stability of the city, and challenged the rule of law and social order,” Mr Chen was quoted as saying.
“The incidents have seriously threatened the life and safety of Hong Kong citizens.
“This should not be tolerated and we express our strong condemnation.”
Mass protests began in Hong Kong, a former British colony which is now a semi-autonomous part of China, on June 9 against a legislative bill that would have allowed for criminal extradition to mainland China.
In recent weeks they have spiralled into a greater protest against Hong Kong’s government as well as police brutality.
According to the South China Morning Post, the garrison also released a three-minute video on Wednesday showing troops taking part in anti-riot drills.
The video shows several montages of soldiers and military vehicles moving through the empty streets and hills of what appears to be Hong Kong and firing machine guns at unseen targets.
In one scene, a soldier shouts, “All consequences are at your own risk,” while in later scenes soldiers can be seen escorting handcuffed civilians.
The video was released amid concerns about the increased military presence on the border.
The Post reported that 190,000 police officers had gathered in Guangdong Province, which borders Hong Kong, for drills ahead of the PLA anniversary.
While it is not uncommon for the PLA to carry out exercises near the border, the increased numbers raised some alarm outside the city due to recent unrest and Beijing’s limited tolerance for political dissent.
White House National Security Advisor John Bolton told FOX News that he had “heard rumours from friends in the region” that the PLA was amassing forces.
Mr Bolton said he was concerned that Hong Kong could descend into a similar scenario seen in 1989 at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, in which democracy protests ended with a military crackdown believed to have killed hundreds or thousands, depending on estimates.
“I would just say, I hope that people who remember what happened after Tiananmen Square in June 1989 take that into account,” he said.