China defends deploying soldiers in Hong Kong, calls it 'most pressing task'

WION Web Team New Delhi, India Nov 18, 2019, 11.32 AM(IST) Written By: Bharat Sharma

A file photo of protests in Hong Kong Photograph:( Reuters )

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The brief clean-up operation came at the end of a week of particularly intense clashes between police and protesters that had caused chaos across Hong Kong

As violence continues to eclipse Hong Kong, China's military today defended the deployment of soldiers into the city. They referred to the violence as the ''most pressing task''.

The brief clean-up operation came at the end of a week of particularly intense clashes between police and protesters that had caused chaos across Hong Kong. Soldiers, besides trying to quell the violence, were seen helping out clean nearby streets that were soiled by protesters.

"There were some Hong Kong citizens clearing roadblocks near the PLA Hong Kong garrison," Chinese defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian told reporters at a security event in Bangkok when asked about the brief deployment.

"The soldiers from the PLA Hong Kong garrison joined these citizens in clearing these roadblocks and their efforts were welcomed by Hong Kong citizens", Qian added.

China has made it clear that it won't entertain any of the demands put forward by the protesters while adding that no violence will be tolerated.

After another weekend of violence and protesters setting fire to the entrance of a university entrance on Monday morning to defend themselves from police, Wu issued another warning.

"Ending violence and restoring order is the most pressing task we have in Hong Kong," Wu said after China's defence minister Wei Fenghe met his US counterpart, Mark Esper, in Bangkok.

China's People Liberations' Army has maintained a garrison in Hong Kong since the former British colony was returned to China in 1997.

However, these troops barely leave their barracks. They were last seen on the streets to help clean up after a typhoon in 2018.

According to Hong Kong's Basic Law, troops from mainland China can operate in the city if local authorities request it.

Hong Kong authorities may, "when necessary", ask the central government for assistance from the garrison "in the maintenance of public order and in disaster relief", according to Article 14.

Article 18 of the Basic Law allows the central government to effectively suspend Hong Kong's laws if there is a "state of war" or "turmoil" which "endangers national security or unity". 

Hong Kong's government said on Saturday that it did not request the Chinese troops to clean up the streets.

Recently, A government ban on demonstrators wearing face masks, aimed at helping to quell months of pro-democracy unrest in Hong Kong, was ruled unconstitutional by the territory's high court.

Owing to the unrest in Hong Kong, many Asian carriers have cancelled flights to Hong Kong.

(With inputs from AFP)