In the latest alarming development in the Chinese government’s crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops were seen on the streets of Hong Kong, leading to widespread outrage among pro-democracy politicians in Hong Kong.
The pro-China Hong Kong government claims that the troops were there merely to help pick up debris off the roads after the latest round of protests, which were some of the most violent that have yet been seen since tensions flared up five months ago.
The PLA has kept a contingent of troops barracked in Hong Kong for some time; however, the soldiers are rarely if ever seen leaving the barracks in uniform, in an effort to reinforce Hong Kong’s partial independence from Chinese rule.
But after the most recent round of protests, numerous social media users captured photos of army soldiers wearing their green and black uniforms on the streets. Some were also seen leaving the barracks in shorts and T-shirts, ostensibly to help clean up debris and roadblocks.
According to multiple reports, pro-democracy politicians in Hong Kong demanded to know why the soldiers were present on the streets, and were told that the Hong Kong government did not request any clean up help from the PLA, but that the troops were merely there on a voluntary basis.
In a statement released to CNN, the Hong Kong government characterized the soldier’s activities as “purely voluntary community activity” that was “initiated by themselves.”
Still, the presence of PLA soldiers in the streets is sure to inflame tensions, which have already been at the breaking point during the months-long ordeal that has already captured the world’s attention.
The latest round of violent protests was sparked by a police operation that targeted supposedly unruly protesters at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. In response, students at other university campuses throughout Hong Kong have barricaded themselves into campus grounds and protested even more vehemently, to the point where Hong Kong Police have basically ceded those campuses to the protesters.