Opinion: Chinese military intervention in Hong Kong would be costly

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Opinion: Chinese military intervention in Hong Kong would be costly

Deutsche Welle

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Opinion: Chinese military intervention in Hong Kong would be costly
Opinion: Chinese military intervention in Hong Kong would be costly. Reuters/Southern Metropolis Daily/G. Wei
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Earlier this week, footage surfaced on Chinese internet showing columns of armored vehicles heading south and converging on the city of Shenzhen. The videos seem to suggest that the Chinese People’s Armed Police Force, a heavily armed paramilitary unit, is gathering on the Hong Kong border. It is Beijing’s latest effort to project its power vis-a-vis the former British colony. The message is clear: We are ready to quell the Hong Kong protests with force.

Threats without impact

A dictatorship is built on the principle of fear. The rulers are scared of the people and in turn see to it that the people are scared of them. China has perfected this system of deterrence. The government has countless ways of reminding citizens that it is able and willing to use force: a phone call from China’s domestic intelligence agency to an individual’s employer, a ban on leaving the country, or even arbitrary arrest and torture.

Yet China’s rulers are currently witnessing that their usual threats are not having any effect on the predominantly young Hong Kong protesters, who have been taking to the streets for ten weeks now. Neither police brutality nor mass arrests have deterred them. Not even the threat of ten years in prison for those convicted of “rioting” has had any impact. And China’s increasingly thinly veiled threat of sending in the army isn’t scaring them off.

China’s rulers must be rather perplexed at this stage. After all, these are not empty threats. Thirty years ago, the Communist leadership brutally suppressed the Tiananmen Square protests, making clear it has no scruples against shooting its own citizens if its feels its grip on power is in jeopardy.

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