Top Hong Kong police officials on Thursday said they were not aware of any plan to use Chinese troops to crush mass protests that have paralyzed the city for months as photos captured paramilitary forces gathering just miles from the border.
The three senior police officers, who asked to remain anonymous, said they were unsure of whether they would be informed by the Chinese government if troops were deployed to Hong Kong.
They described the demonstrations, which started in early June, as worse than the 79-day “Occupy Central” unrest in 2014 over voting rights.
The recent protests began over legislation, now suspended, that would have allowed suspects from Hong Kong be extradited to mainland China and have since turned into demands for democratic reforms.
Throngs of protesters have choked off major roadways and even caused an international airport to shut down as they clashed with police — lobbing bricks and gasoline bombs at the cops, who responded by firing rubber bullets and tear gas at the crowds.
More than 700 people have been arrested.
The US State Department has called for restraint, and President Trump on Thursday suggested that his Chinese counterpart should get personally involved.
“If President Xi would meet directly and personally with the protesters, there would be a happy and enlightened ending to the Hong Kong problem,” he wrote on Twitter. “I have no doubt!”
Members of the pro-democracy movement have raised allegations of police brutality — although the officers said no police have been disciplined for excessive force since the protests began.
“It’s difficult to say if we are really losing public support,” an officer said.
Another said there was a “silent majority” of Hong Kong residents who are quietly supporting the police.
But China’s ambassador to Britain said the groups are pushing Hong Kong “down a dangerous road” and that Beijing’s government will not “sit on its hands” if the situation deteriorates further.
“We hope this will end in an orderly way. In the meantime we are fully prepared for the worst,” Liu Xiaoming told reporters in London.
Photos showed armored personnel carriers and uniformed members of the People’s Armed Police Force massing at a sports center in Shenzhen across the border from Hong Kong.
With Post wires