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China reportedly doubles military presence in Hong Kong as tensions escalate ahead of anniversary of Communist rule


The protesters have been demanding democratic reforms

Miguel Candela Poblacion/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Chinese government is reportedly doubling its military presence in Hong Kong ahead of a national holiday marking the 70th anniversary of Communist rule.

What's the context?

Since Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 by the United Kingdom, it has seen its freedoms being slowly systematically stripped away despite initial promises by the Chinese government.

This year, the Chinese-approved local government of Hong Kong considered a bill that would have allowed Hong Kong citizens to be extradited to mainland China for trial. Supporters of democracy in Hong Kong feared that this would allow the government to indefinitely detain dissidents or make them disappear, something already happening in other parts of China.

So they began to protest. These protests have been going on for four months.

On Sept. 4, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that the bill had been scrapped entirely. But the invigorated protesters continued to demand more rights. Some of them turned to violence, throwing molotov cocktails into crowds of riot police. The police, meanwhile, have been arresting protests leaders since the early days of the demonstrations.

Chinese authorities are particularly concerned about what the protesters might do on Tuesday's "National Day," which marks the 70th anniversary of Communist rule in China.

What happened now?

According to Reuters, diplomats had noticed that the number of Chinese troops in Hong Kong had doubled to around 12,000. Some of these included the members of the pro-government paramilitary group the People's Armed Police. While Reuters could not confirm the numbers, its reporters did see "significantly increased movements by troops and armored vehicles" at People's Liberation Army bases in Hong Kong.

In addition to these troops, there are about 30,000 Chinese police in Hong Kong.

While it is unlikely to convince the protesters, Chinese President Xi Jinping insisted on Sunday that the "one country, two systems" form of government for Hong Kong would be maintained, saying that "Hong Kong and Macau will be able to develop together with the motherland's interior (semi-autonomous Macau has the same system in place as Hong Kong, after coming under Chinese rule in 1999)."

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