Sunday Express

China stages mock Hong Kong invasion

- By Marco Giannageli DIPLOMATIC EDITOR

CHINA has been staging mock invasions of Hong Kong, sources said last night.

It emerges just days after Beijing caused fury in Britain and democracie­s worldwide by imposing a sweeping security law on the former colony.

The legislatio­n – written and imposed from Beijing – breaks the terms of the 1997 handover treaty which guaranteed Hong Kong democracy under “one nation, two systems” until 2047.

The two military exercises suggest Beijing is prepared to use troops to quell dissent.

The first, in November, consisted of two groups of four helicopter­s in mountainou­s regions to simulate Hong Kong’s geographic­al terrain. The night-time exercise was curtailed after a helicopter crashed, killing 17 soldiers.

The second was held at the end of February and passed without incident.

The new security law introduces new crimes with severe penalties – up to life in prison – and allows mainland security personnel to legally operate in Hong Kong with impunity.

It is already having its effect, with pro-democracy leaders branded secessioni­sts even though they have not argued for Hong Kong’s independen­ce.

Despite strict Covid-19 lockdown measures, more than 300 demonstrat­ors were arrested after the new law was announced.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called the move a “grave and deeply disturbing” breach of the Sino-british Joint Declaratio­n.

Britain has now offered bespoke citizenshi­p rights to around three million Hong Kong nationals, and the US has imposed visa restrictio­n on Chinese officials.

But last night experts warned that President Xi Jinping’s aggressive policies may be running out of fuel as he struggles to deliver economic promises.

Matthew Henderson, of the Henry Jackson Society think tank, is an expert on China. He said:

“China’s people are under increased surveillan­ce, subject to AI monitoring and the social credit system (which grades the population’s civic mindedness and curtails freedoms for low scorers) – all in return for which they were promised six per cent growth.

“Xi needs this to maintain social order. But it isn’t happening.

“There have been around 70 million lost jobs since the pandemic began... the figure is probably much higher.”

In addition, some 373 million people are earning less than £4.40 a day while 291 million migrants have zero employment opportunit­ies, he said.

And protests across China after the death of Covid-19 whistleblo­wer Dr Li Wenliang prove that citizens still have a voice.

“Dr Li said it was wrong when a country has only one voice,” said Mr Henderson. “But we now know China does not have one voice. The people spoke very briefly, but their voices were heard.

“This is a brittle system under stress and the economy that drives it is flawed, and getting worse.”

 ??  ?? CLAMPDOWN: Riot police in Hong Kong march toward protesters
CLAMPDOWN: Riot police in Hong Kong march toward protesters

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