China sends troops to Hong Kong bor­der city

De­cries ‘ter­ror­ism,’ denies U.S. port vis­its

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY LAUREN MEIER

Ten­sions be­tween Hong Kong and China soared Tues­day as riot po­lice clashed with pro­test­ers oc­cu­py­ing Hong Kong’s main air­port, amid re­ports that Bei­jing was as­sem­bling forces and mil­i­tary as­sets near the bor­der with the city.

In dra­matic footage, ba­ton-wield­ing po­lice in riot gear clashed with masked pro­test­ers at the air­port, which is one of the largest in the world. The mass of demon­stra­tors, who for a sec­ond straight day had largely closed down all flights out of the air­port, bar­ri­caded sev­eral en­trances with lug­gage carts in an at­tempt to slow the po­lice ap­proach.

The seizure of the mas­sive air­port was the demon­stra­tors’ lat­est es­ca­la­tion in a cam­paign orig­i­nally sparked by plans from Hong Kong’s gov­ern­ment for an ex­tra­di­tion law with Bei­jing that many Hong Kong res­i­dents saw as an in­fringe­ment on the city’s au­ton­omy and guar­an­teed right to its own gov­ern­ment and eco­nomic sys­tems.

The surg­ing ten­sions have sparked a fierce de­bate over whether and how long Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and the Communist Party will al­low the stand­off to go on. Pres­i­dent Trump fu­eled the

spec­u­la­tion with a Twit­ter post Tues­day that said U.S. in­tel­li­gence “has in­formed us that the Chi­nese Gov­ern­ment is mov­ing troops to the bor­der with Hong Kong. Ev­ery­one should be calm and safe!”

It could not be de­ter­mined whether Mr. Trump was re­veal­ing fresh troop move­ments or de­ploy­ments al­ready reported in the me­dia over the week­end and on Mon­day. Para­mil­i­tary po­lice were seen as­sem­bling across the bor­der in the city of Shen­zhen for what of­fi­cials de­scribed as train­ing ex­er­cises.

Mr. Trump also took heat from Demo­cratic ri­vals and some Hong Kong ad­vo­cates for not speak­ing more force­fully against the gov­ern­ment’s pres­sure tac­tics, even as Bei­jing and Washington are en­gaged in a fierce trade war.

“It’s a very tricky sit­u­a­tion,” Mr. Trump told re­porters at the White House. “I think it will work out, and I hope it works out for lib­erty. I hope it works out for ev­ery­body, in­clud­ing China.”

In re­cent weeks, the protest move­ment’s anger at the now-with­drawn ex­tra­di­tion law has mor­phed into a much larger protest against the state of democ­racy in the city and the record of Bei­jing-ap­pointed city Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Car­rie Lam.

The As­so­ci­ated Press reported that black-clad pro­test­ers held up signs to ap­peal to trav­el­ers from main­land China and other parts of the world. “Democ­racy is a good thing,” one sign said.

Demon­stra­tions over the week­end turned vi­o­lent, and over 700 pro­test­ers have been ar­rested since the demon­stra­tions be­gan in early June.

Ear­lier in the day, Chi­nese staterun me­dia re­leased video of ar­mored vehicles re­port­edly car­ry­ing troops to Shen­zhen. The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment said in a state­ment that the protests are “ter­ror­ism,” an omi­nous char­ac­ter­i­za­tion that could lay the ground­work for in­ter­ven­tion.

The Chi­nese mil­i­tary re­jected the U.S. Navy’s request for port vis­its to the city over the next sev­eral weeks, a Pen­tagon of­fi­cial con­firmed to The Washington Times. The USS Green Bay and USS Lake Erie were sched­uled to visit the port.

“We have a long track record of suc­cess­ful port vis­its to Hong Kong, and we ex­pect them to con­tinue,” the of­fi­cial said.

Fear of in­ter­ven­tion

With few signs the protests are set to sub­side, “the like­li­hood of a heavy­handed in­ter­ven­tion by Bei­jing is now grow­ing,” said Dan Kli­man, the di­rec­tor of Asia-Pa­cific se­cu­rity for the Cen­ter for a New Amer­i­can Se­cu­rity.

But any force­ful move could re­vive mem­o­ries of the 1989 Tianan­men Square mas­sacre and deeply stain China’s im­age as it seeks to project it­self as a ma­jor mil­i­tary force and an emerg­ing global eco­nomic su­per­power.

“China’s use of its pub­lic se­cu­rity forces or mil­i­tary to quell the Hong Kong protests would pro­duce long-last­ing in­ter­na­tional blow­back and ir­refutably demon­strate the ide­o­log­i­cal na­ture of to­day’s great power com­pe­ti­tion,” Mr. Kli­man said.

Top Chi­nese of­fi­cials, who go into a ma­jor an­nual lead­er­ship con­fer­ence in

the com­ing days, are said to be loath to send troops into the city but are fear­ful that al­low­ing the protests and de­fi­ance to go on would be seen as a sign of weak­ness in Tai­wan and other places.

But Bei­jing’s state-con­trolled press has grown in­creas­ingly pointed in its com­men­tary on the events in Hong Kong and openly spec­u­lated that the U.S. gov­ern­ment was back­ing a “color rev­o­lu­tion” in the city along the lines of sim­i­lar up­ris­ings in Ukraine and else­where.

Hu Xi­jin, the ed­i­tor-in-chief of the state-backed news out­let Global Times, tweeted that “it is hoped Hong Kong can re­store or­der by it­self. That is the best end.”

But, he added, “if the de­vel­op­ment of the sit­u­a­tion sug­gests there is no such hope, Bei­jing’s in­ter­ven­tion will be in­evitable. It’s a hard choice, but once it be­comes the de­ci­sion, it will be a firm one.”

Ms. Lam, the city’s em­bat­tled chief ex­ec­u­tive, said dur­ing a Tues­day morn­ing press con­fer­ence that the “riot ac­tiv­i­ties [had] pushed Hong Kong to the brink of no re­turn.” She charged that “il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity” caused dam­age to the city and it could take a “long time for Hong Kong to re­cover.”

“The only thing we have to do is to go against vi­o­lence and re­build the city,”

Ms. Lam said. “Po­lice are an im­por­tant de­fense of Hong Kong.”

U.S. law­mak­ers, who are in the mid­dle of a four-week-long Au­gust re­cess, took to Twit­ter to show sup­port for the demon­stra­tions and peo­ple of Hong Kong.

Rep. Ted S. Yoho, Florida Repub­li­can, praised the pro­test­ers and said their spread­ing move­ment re­flects the “con­tin­ued encroachme­nt on free­doms and lib­er­ties” by the Xi gov­ern­ment.

Mr. Trump’s mea­sured re­marks drew crit­i­cism from Democrats on the House For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, which tweeted “Ac­tu­ally, the sit­u­a­tion is straight­for­ward: the peo­ple of Hong Kong and their fight for free­dom & democ­racy de­serve our re­spect & sup­port. Fail­ing to say so un­equiv­o­cally is a be­trayal of Amer­i­can lead­er­ship and val­ues.”

The spokesper­son for the United Na­tions High Com­mis­sioner for Hu­man Rights con­demned “any form of vi­o­lence” and urged re­straint.

In a state­ment, Com­mis­sioner Michelle Bachelet called on lo­cal au­thor­i­ties “to en­gage in an open and in­clu­sive di­a­logue aimed at re­solv­ing all is­sues peace­fully … to en­sure that the right of those who are ex­press­ing their views peace­fully are re­spected and pro­tected.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Chaos broke out at Hong Kong’s air­port as riot po­lice moved into the ter­mi­nal to con­front pro­test­ers who shut down op­er­a­tions at the busy hub for two straight days.

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