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In Hong Kong, "an intervention by force is more and more likely"

For Marc Julienne, researcher at the Foundation for Strategic Research and PhD student at Inalco (National Institute of Oriental Languages ​​and Civilizations), and a specialist in security and defense policies in China, Beijing must perform a "Cost / benefit calculation" in its way of responding to the protest movement that has shaken Hong Kong for two months. If this movement constitutes a "Intolerable distrust" for the party leader, Xi Jinping, no solution will allow Beijing to come out a winner, he said.

Beijing on Tuesday 6 August, its strongest warning to the Hong Kong protesters who have been defending the communist regime for two months, warning them of the government's "immense power" central. How to analyze these threats?

Marc Julienne: The statements of the spokespersons of the Hong Kong and Macao Business Office (or HKMAO, for Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, in English) are part of the continuity of the remarks made during the first press conference on July 29th. But the warnings against Hong Kong protesters have gone up a notch. The HKMAO had already set three red lines, relatively vague, that would push Beijing to take firm measures: the danger of national security, the distrust of the authority of Beijing and the Hong Kong constitutional law, and the use of Hong Kong by foreign forces to harm China.

Two of these red lines now seem to have been crossed for Beijing. The central government believes that  "à  © rioters" attack people's China and the principle of"One country, two systems" targeting the symbols of the People's Republic, including its flag, which was seized and thrown into the sea. Chinese officials also denied their accusations of foreign interference in the organization of events. The speech was also strongly hardened, urging protesters to "Do not underestimate the firm determination and immense power of the central government and the Chinese people to maintain prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and to preserve the fundamental interests of China  ».

Is an intervention of the Chinese army in Hong Kong still possible?

Forced intervention is more and more likely. The Chinese Ministry of Defense had already suggested in July that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) could intervene in Hong Kong, in accordance with the provisions of Hong Kong law. This would require the Hong Kong government to request the reinforcement of Beijing to maintain order. In this case, the Hong Kong LPA garrison, with 5,000 men, would act under the orders of Beijing.

In the last two weeks, clear signals have been sent to the Hong Kong people to convince Beijing of the determination. The commander of the Hong Kong garrison said he was ready on July 31 "To protect national sovereignty, security and prosperity" of the city. Three large-scale anti-pack exercises also took place in Guangdong Province, neighboring Hong Kong. Finally, propaganda videos have been widely distributed, showing simulations of violent demonstrations whose protagonists, in black T-shirts and hard hats, look in all respects to the Hong Kong protesters.

At the press conference on August 6, HKMAO spokesman Yang Guang insisted on three points. First, the PLA, at the height of its 92 years of existence, is the most powerful force to safeguard national sovereignty. Secondly, the PLA executes the orders of the central government and acts within the strict framework of the law. Finally, as if to confuse the tracks, Yang Guang pointed out that the Hong Kong police had all the capacity and all the confidence of the central government to "Stop the packs and restore order". The purpose of this speech is to show Pakistan's unwavering support to the Hong Kong authorities in order to legitimize an eventual Chinese intervention, which would be carried out in accordance with Hong Kong legislation. It also aims to dissuade protesters by threatening them with a "Backfire" © Ina luctable.

Can other scenarios of intervention be envisaged, in particular through the Chinese anti-pack forces which took part in an exercise in Shenzhen on Tuesday, largely mediated by China, in which the police trained against men dressed in black and wearing yellow helmets?

Beijing has various possibilities of action. The easiest way would be to mobilize troops from the Hong Kong LPA garrison because of the legislation that allows it. However, since the army was not trained in law enforcement missions, involving the PLA could stir up Tiananmen's bad memories.

Another option would be to involve paramilitary troops of the People's Armed Police (PAP), more suited to maintaining order. However, these, like the PLA, are placed under the authority of the Central Military Commission, China's highest military body, and their missions are also mainly combat missions.

Finally, Beijing could send in large numbers the anti-public security anti-pack forces (the People's Police), which are not equipped with military equipment, to strengthen Hong Kong's strength. China would thus reduce, perhaps, the critics of the international community, in relation to a military operation. However, the intervention of "continental" police forces in Hong Kong is not provided for by Hong Kong constitutional law. China will then have to argue that "The central government is responsible for the defense of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region", as provided in Article 14, to justify this intervention. China held Tuesday, August 6, an exercise rallying 12,000 of these police in Shenzhen, on the other side of the border with Hong Kong.

Regardless of the scenario, it is also highly likely that the Central Committee of the Communist Party declares the state of emergency in Hong Kong, or that the Hong Kong government imposes a ban on demonstrations, or even a curfew, prior to such an operation. Thus, a police intervention, with the possible support of armed forces of garrison of Hong Kong, constitutes today a plausible scenario.

What risks would Beijing take by intervening directly in the maintenance of order in Hong Kong?

Intervention by force would indeed be very risky. First, there is an important political cost. China would suffer a wave of criticism, even sanctions, from Western democracies. His image would be seriously scratched, let alone in an international context already tense. She is in the midst of a trade war with the United States and is accused of violating human rights against the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang. Moreover, no one can anticipate the consequences of such an operation. A conflict between the Hong Kong youth and mainland Chinese forces could itself be bogged down. This brings us to the economic cost of an intervention. There is a high risk of lasting economic disruption in Hong Kong that would also be detrimental to mainland China.

Itâ € ™ sa cost / benefit calculation that Beijing must perform in this crisis. No solution will allow Beijing to come out a winner, so he will choose the least bad option to safeguard his priority interests. Since the events of Tiananmen Square in June 1989, Beijing sees in any form of protest a threat to the stability of the Communist Party. The People's Republic is a Leninist regime that does not suffer any questioning of the Party's authority and ideology. That is why the Hong Kong movement, which fights against the influence of Beijing and for the development of democracy, is an intolerable distrust for Party leader Xi Jinping.

In addition, Beijing is navigating in a sensitive political context. 1st October will be celebrated on the 70the anniversary of the People's Republic of China, a historical marker in the "Renewal of Chinese Power" from Xi Jinping. And in January 2020 will hold the presidential elections in Taiwan. It is therefore an ambiguous context for the People's Republic, between demonstration of the power recovered from one side, and radical opposition to the regime of the other, in Hong Kong and Taïwan.

Read also the tribune: "In the crisis in Hong Kong, China will not back down"
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