Chinese soldiers in Hong Kong warn protesters as emergency rules fail to quell unrest

OCTOBER 6, 2019 by https://www.reuters.com

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Chinese soldiers issued a warning to Hong Kong protesters on Sunday who shone lasers at their barracks in the city, in the first direct interaction with mainland military forces in four months of anti-government demonstrations.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) garrison in Kowloon district warned a crowd of a few hundred protesters they could be arrested for targeting its troops and barracks walls with laser lights.

One officer shouted through a loudhailer in broken Cantonese – the main language of Hong Kong – “Bear consequences for your actions.”

The stand-off with the PLA came after rallies attended by tens of thousands of protesters earlier on Sunday ended in violent clashes in several locations. Police fired tear gas and baton-charged the crowds, while some demonstrators threw bricks and petrol bombs at police as night fell.

Protesters concealed their faces in defiance of colonial-era emergency laws invoked by the authorities on Friday, which banned face masks. Protesters face a maximum of one year in jail for breaking the mask ban.

Police made their first arrests under the new rules, detaining scores of people. Officers tied their wrists with cable and unmasked their faces before placing them on buses. Some protesters lay in foetal positions on the ground, their wrists tied behind their backs, after being subdued with pepper spray and batons.

“The anti-mask law just fuels our anger and more will people come on to the street,” Lee, a university student wearing a blue mask, said on Sunday, as he marched on Hong Kong island.

“We are not afraid of the new law, we will continue fighting. We will fight for righteousness. I put on the mask to tell the government that I’m not afraid of tyranny.”

Chinese military personnel standing on the roof of the PLA’s Osborn Barracks in Kowloon Tong district held up a sign in English and Chinese which read: “Warning. You are in breach of the law. You may be prosecuted.”

The troops in fatigues also shone spotlights on the crowd and used binoculars and cameras to monitor protesters. The protesters, several thousand of whom passed the barracks, eventually dispersed.

In August, Beijing moved thousands of troops across the border into Hong Kong in an operation state news agency Xinhua described at the time as a routine “rotation”.

But the PLA has remained in barracks since protests started, leaving Hong Kong’s police force to deal with the massive and often violent protests in the Asian financial hub.

The PLA’s top brass has warned violence is “absolutely impermissible”.