ince the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong began this summer, there have been lingering worries that the city’s garrison of People’s Liberation Army troops might be called in. Well, that day finally came over the weekend as Chinese officers left their barracks… equipped with brooms and buckets.
The PLA soldiers jogged out in formation to help local residents with cleaning up a roadblock on Saturday that had been erected by protesters near to their barracks gate outside the Hong Kong Baptist University in Kowloon Tong.
A video clip filmed by a #HongKong resident shows #PLA HK Garrison soldiers in casual clothes starting to clean up the mess left by rioters on the road. "Thank you so much!" residents cheered for them. https://t.co/LwkpjSf0Gv pic.twitter.com/a76X7Ntkdx
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) November 16, 2019
#NOW: PLA soldiers march back into their #HongKong barracks in formation after a 30-minute clearance action. They are sporting a green t-shirt with Chinese flag on their left sleeves, carrying broomsticks and buckets, and shouting Mandarin chants#HongKongProtests pic.twitter.com/aPzfXRNVdW
— Victor Ting (@VictorTing7) November 16, 2019
When asked what they were doing by a journalist, one officer declared that the troops had “volunteered” for the clean-up duty. “Putting an end to violence and chaos is our responsibility,” he said. “We are spreading positive energy!”
However, many in Hong Kong are not feeling that “positive energy,” seeing the action as an attempt to normalize the presence of PLA troops on the streets in the former British colony.
Since the 1997 handover, Chinese soldiers have only once left their barracks in Hong Kong, helping to clean up after a typhoon hit the city in 2018. Protesters have argued that the troops would not have done something like this on their own, meaning that they must have received orders from above.
For its part, the Hong Kong government has said that it did not request the assistance of PLA forces but that the military had launched a “voluntary community activity” of its own accord. Pro-democracy supporters have accused the garrison of violating Hong Kong’s basic law, which states that PLA soldiers can only help to maintain public order if asked by the local government.