China's PLA doubles troops in Hong Kong ahead of rumored 'violent attack'

Late August troop movement revealed to be troop reinforcement, not rotation

PLA troops march in Beijing on Oct. 1

PLA troops march in Beijing on Oct. 1 (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has quietly expanded its presence in the restive Hong Kong Special Administrative Region over the past month, according to Reuters.

A late August troop movement to Hong Kong's PLA garrison has been revealed as a “reinforcement” rather than the “routine rotation” that the Chinese government and media first reported, says the report. The information was provided by unnamed diplomatic envoys just days before rumors that Chinese authorities were preparing for a “violent attack” in the city on Oct. 1, the date marking China’s 70th year under communist rule.

Diplomatic envoys from at least two different countries with embassies in Hong Kong say that there was no significant number of PLA troops seen leaving the territory before or after the sudden influx of new troops on Aug. 29. It is now estimated that the PLA garrison in Hong Kong, which previously numbered between 3,000 and 5,000 troops, now houses 10,000 to 12,000, reports Reuters.

While the bulk of the troops are regular PLA forces, their ranks have reportedly been bolstered by elements of the People’s Armed Police, a paramilitary organization and domestic security force. With the largest PLA contingent ever to be housed in Hong Kong territory, many are worried that China may be preparing to dispatch the military to quell the protests if the 30,000-strong Hong Kong police force is unable to do so.

The signal from diplomats gives an alarming context to a statement made Monday (Sept. 30) by the chief superintendent of the Hong Kong police force’s public relations office, Tse Chun-chung (謝振中). Tse said that the city is “on the verge of extreme danger” and that the police were anticipating a “very serious, violent attack” from anti-China protesters on or around Oct. 1, reports Reuters.

PLA Armored Personnel Carriers entering Hong Kong, Aug. 29 (China press photo)

Satellite photo of PLA troop build-up at arena in Shenzhen in mid-August (Associated Press photo)