Chinese soldiers in riot gear practice drills near Hong Kong university: Witness

Reuters Hong Kong Nov 23, 2019, 08.13 PM(IST)

Representational image Photograph:( AFP )

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The soldiers carried shields and wore helmets with face guards, and were glimpsed from a high building marching in formation on an inner parade ground not visible from the road.

Soldiers in the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) practised drills at an army barracks bordering Hong Kong's Polytechnic University on Saturday (November 23) according to a Reuters witness.

The soldiers carried shields and wore helmets with face guards, and were glimpsed from a high building marching in formation on an inner parade ground not visible from the road.

PLA soldiers have not publicly engaged in anti-riot efforts on the streets of Hong Kong but such drills suggest a high degree of preparedness amid the current protests.

Both Chinese and Hong Kong leaders have repeatedly said that Hong Kong police can handle the situation but Beijing has more than doubled the number of troops in the city since late August, with up to 12,000 on bases scattered across the territory.

An uneasy calm settled over Hong Kong on Saturday as the city prepared to go to the polls for local elections seen as a referendum on months of anti-government protests, after weeks of especially violent clashes between police and demonstrators.

The protests snowballed from June after years of resentment over what many residents see as Chinese meddling in freedoms promised to Hong Kong when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.