China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) on Thursday released a propaganda video showing its soldiers practicing dispersing a crowd dressed to look like Hong Kong anti-extradition protesters, and warning them to disperse in Cantonese, the city's lingua franca.
The video, which was released by the PLA's Hong Kong garrison to mark the army's 92nd anniversary on Aug. 1, showed soldiers engaged in an "anti-riot" drill, shouting at the crowd "take the consequences at your own risk!" in Cantonese.
Soldiers are also seen advancing on the crowd with shields, carrying a red flag similar to that used by Hong Kong police to disperse protesters.
Troops are also shown shooting at and blowing up cars, including one that looks like a Hong Kong taxi.
The shots are rounded off with interviews with people praising the PLA in Cantonese, saying that the Chinese army is "integrated" with the people of Hong Kong.
Beijing has called on authorities in Hong Kong to take rapid steps to punish anyone who has broken its laws following weeks of angry protests over plans to allow extradition to mainland China.
Chinese officials have declined to comment on whether Beijing will order its People's Liberation Army (PLA) garrison to intervene in Hong Kong, referring only to the city's mini-constitution, the Basic Law, which allows for that possibility if the request is made by the Hong Kong government.
Financial workers protest
The video was released as thousands of financial workers braved the tail end of a tropical storm to gather in downtown Hong Kong to call on the city's government to meet the five demands that protesters have put forward since the civil disobedience movement began on June 6.
Chanting "Go Hongkongers!" and "Protect Hong Kong!", the workers huddled under umbrellas, lit up by phone flashlights in the torrential rain, before dispersing quietly into the nearby International Finance Center mall.
The protest was aimed at supporting growing calls for an independent commission of public inquiry into the government's handling of planned amendments to the city's Fugitive Offenders Ordinance that would allow the extradition of alleged criminal suspects to mainland China, where they would stand trial in a judiciary that is wholly loyal to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Hong Kong's normally conservative Law Society chimed in with calls for an inquiry on Thursday, saying prolonged violence would affect law and order in the city and threaten the rule of law.
The Independent Police Complaints Council has already announced a probe into allegations of police abuse of power during anti-extradition protests, and the authorities are investigating a violent attack in Yuen Long on July 21 in which armed men in white t-shirts chased and beat up people indiscriminately.
But the Law Society said the inquiry should have a much broader scope.
It recommended the panel be composed of a retired judge sitting with other members chosen from a cross-section of society, with anonymity for witnesses, and should make recommendations to avoid similar situations in future.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong garrison commander Chen Diaoxiang hit out in an anniversary event at "violent incidents" in recent weeks that had threatened public safety, government broadcaster RTHK reported.
These "violent incidents" had challenged the rule of law and social order and threatened the safety of people’s lives and properties, Chen told an official anniversary event attended by chief executive Carrie Lam and the director of Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong, Wang Zhimin.
Hong Kong political commentator Liu Ruishao said the PLA's video was definitely a response to weeks of mass anti-extradition protests in recent weeks.
But he said he doesn't expect to see military intervention any time soon.
"If they deployed the PLA to deal with an internal matter in Hong Kong, Beijing would be effectively announcing the death of 'one country, two systems'," Liu said, in a reference to Hong Kong's continued status as a separate legal jurisdiction and trading entity following the 1997 handover to Chinese rule.
"But Beijing still needs Hong Kong in many ways, including its international financial status," he said. "A lot of members of China's political and financial elite need Hong Kong as a way to launder money."
On Wednesday, video appeared online of seven members of China's Kunlun Red Star youth ice hockey team surrounding and beating up five members of their Hong Kong opponents, with scant interest from mainland Chinese refugees.
According to their coach, who described the attacks as "despicable," "dirty," and "a violation of sportsmanship," the Hong Kong team had been leading 11:2.
The China Ice Hockey Association said the footage was of a "collision" during play, and that no beatings were involved, in spite of the attacks being clearly visible in the video clip.
Charged with rioting
Authorities in Hong Kong charged 44 people with "rioting" following clashes between police and anti-extradition protesters in the city's Western district on Sunday.
Seven of the defendants are teenagers, with one as young as 16, while most are in their twenties. Fourteen told the court they are still in college, while one defendant is a pilot with Hong Kong's flag-carrier Cathay Pacific. Others gave their occupations as nurse, teacher, or clerk.
The arrests come as more than 1,000 civil servants from 52 government departments signed up to take part in a strike on Monday initiated by staff at the University of Hong Kong.
The strikers will be calling on the government to meet the five main demands of protesters: to formally withdraw proposed amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance that would allow extradition to mainland China; to grant an amnesty for all arrested protesters; to withdraw official accusations of rioting; to set up an independent inquiry into police behavior during the crisis; and fully democratic elections.
Healthcare workers have also offered public support to the protest movement, and have called on the government to meet protesters' demands or risk irreparable damage to Hong Kong society.
London-based rights group Amnesty International has said the police are largely to blame for protester violence, because they have a tendency to use tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and batons to attack the crowd, and that police justification that the protests hadn't received prior approval wasn't in line with international human rights standards.
Public anger began to spiral after a gang of triad-linked men in white shirts attacked train passengers at Yuen Long MTR station on July 21.
Nobody was arrested at the time, and police took around 40 minutes to move in on the attackers, who left dozens of people hospitalized, one in a critical condition.
Media footage of the incident has shown a number of police vehicles passing groups of white-shirted men gathering on the street prior to the attack, carrying rods and sticks, without taking any action.
Reported by Tam Siu-yin for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Gao Feng for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.