Will China send in the troops to stamp out protests in Hong Kong?

It is a prospect dreaded by many in Hong Kong, but debate is growing in mainland China about whether the central government should end weeks of upheaval in the city by sending in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The PLA has had a presence in Hong Kong since the city’s return to Chinese sovereignty but – unlike in mainland China – memories of the military’s bloody suppression of pro-democracy students and activists in Beijing in 1989 are still strong in the city three decades on.

Still, images of protesters vandalising Beijing’s liaison office in downtown Hong Kong on Sunday have fanned nationalist anger across the mainland, prompting calls for PLA intervention.

Concerns only deepened on Wednesday when defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian commented on the recent clashes and protests in Hong Kong. Without suggesting any action or plans by the PLA, Wu made clear that the Garrison Law, which governs the operations of PLA troops in Hong Kong, already stipulates that the PLA is legally allowed to help the city maintain law and order at the request of Hong Kong’s government.

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