China warns it could quell Hong Kong protesters

Published August 16, 2019, 8:36 AM

by Gabriela Baron & Minka Klaudia Tiangco

By Reuters

HONG KONG – Hong Kong braced for more mass protests over the weekend, as China warned it could use its power to quell demonstrations and US President Donald Trump urged his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to meet with the protesters to defuse weeks of tensions.

Chinese soldiers walk in formation on the grounds of the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center in Shenzhen across the bay from Hong Kong, China August 15, 2019. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter/MANILA BULLETIN)
Chinese soldiers walk in formation on the grounds of the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center in Shenzhen across the bay from Hong Kong, China August 15, 2019. (REUTERS / Thomas Peter / MANILA BULLETIN)

Hundreds of China’s People’s Armed Police (PAP) on Thursday conducted exercises at a sports stadium in Shenzhen that borders Hong Kong a day after the US State Department said it was “deeply concerned” about the movements, which have prompted worries that the troops could be used to break up protests.

Trump told reporters on Thursday he did not want to see a resort to violence to quell the protests in Hong Kong and reiterated that he wanted to see China “humanely solve the problem.”

“I am concerned. I wouldn’t want to see a violent crackdown,” Trump said, speaking in Morristown, New Jersey. “If he (Xi) sat down with the protesters – a group of representative protesters – I’d bet he’d work it out in 15 minutes. … I know it’s not the kind of thing he does, but I think it wouldn’t be a bad idea.”

Trump said he would call Xi “soon.”

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement faces a major test this weekend as it tries to muster another huge crowd following criticism over a recent violent airport protest and as concerns mount over Beijing’s next move.

Ten weeks of protests have plunged the international finance hub into crisis with the communist mainland taking an increasingly hardline tone, including labeling the more violent protester actions “terrorist-like.”

Chinese state media have put out images of military personnel and armored personnel carriers across the border in Shenzhen, while the United States has warned Beijing against sending in troops, a move many analysts say would be a reputational and economic disaster for China.

New Tiananmen Square

US National Security Advisor John Bolton has warned China against creating a “new” Tiananmen Square in its response to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

“The Chinese have to look very carefully at the steps they take because people in America remember Tiananmen Square, they remember the picture of the man standing in front of the line of tanks,” Bolton said in an interview with VOA News published Thursday.

Chinese forces crushed protests at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989 — an event immortalized in an image of an unarmed man facing down tanks.

“It would be a big mistake to create a new memory like that in Hong Kong,” Bolton said.

READ MORE: Bolton warns China against ‘new’ Tiananmen Square in HK

Love China, Love Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, urged people to “love China, love Hong Kong, and love yourself” on Friday in his first public comments on the escalating pro-democracy protests that have disrupted the city for weeks and challenged China.

Li’s message in front-page advertisements in major newspapers in the Asian financial hub urged the public to “cease the anger with love” and “stop the violence.” The advertisements were signed “a Hong Kong citizen, Li Ka-shing.”

READ MORE: Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing urges love in response to growing protests

Spiderman in HK

French “spiderman” climber Alain Robert scaled a 68-story skyscraper in Hong Kong on Friday to hoist a flag symbolizing reconciliation between China and the territory as weeks of escalating pro-democracy protests show no signs of abating.

Using his bare hands and without a harness, Robert clambered up Cheung Kong Center located in the central business district and secured a large banner on the building’s exterior.

The sign positioned China’s flag in the left hand corner with Hong Kong’s flag on the right side. Underneath was a yellow hand shaking a red hand on a white background to signify peace.

Robert’s climb comes as more mass demonstrations are expected through the weekend. China has likened the protests to terrorism and warned it could use force to quell them. (With reports from Agence France-Presse)

READ MORE: French ‘spiderman’ climbs HK tower, hoists reconciliation flag amid mass protests