China 'can deploy military in HK to contain protests'

Beijing, July 24 (IANS) China on Wednesday said it can deploy military to Hong Kong at the request of the city's government to maintain law and order after weeks of pro-democracy protests.

Chinese Defence Ministry's spokesman Wu Qian said that the vandalism of the central government liaison office in Hong Kong -- after weeks of mass protests against the city's extradition bill -- was a challenge to the bottom line of the principle of "one country, two systems", the South China Morning Post reported.

"Article 14 of the Garrison Law has clear stipulations," the Ministry's spokesperson Wu Qian said at a press conference in response to a question by reporters on whether Chinese armed forces would intervene in the special administrative region.

According to provisions of the article, the Hong Kong government may seek help from the central government for "maintenance of public order and in disaster relief".

"We are closely following the developments in Hong Kong, especially the violent attack against the central government liaison office by radicals on July 21," Wu said, referring to an incident on Sunday when demonstrators vandalized the office by throwing paint on the national emblem and using spray paint on the boundary walls of the premises.

"Some behaviour of the radical protesters is challenging the authority of the central government and the bottom line of one country, two systems. This is intolerable."

Over the past seven weeks, Hong Kong has been the scene of demonstrations that began as protests against a contentious extradition bill that, according to lawyers and human rights activists, would allow the extradition to mainland China of fugitives accused of certain crimes.

The bill's opponents said that the new law could mean that local activists, critical journalists and dissidents in Hong Kong could be sent to mainland China for trial. Its defenders, meanwhile, claimed that it merely sought to fill a legal vacuum, as no formal extradition treaties exist between Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China.

The bill was scrapped following a dramatic rise in tensions after mass protests engulfed Hong Kong's government district.

However, the protesters' demands, which were initially focused on stopping the extradition bill, have morphed into catch-all calls for democratic mechanisms to be implemented.

--IANS

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