Sunday, August 01, 2004

Chinese troops march in Hong Kong to intimidate voters

From a BBC article:

China troops parade in Hong Kong

More than 3,000 Chinese troops have for the first time staged an Army Day parade in Hong Kong.

Some 15,000 people bought tickets to watch a display of military hardware and precision marching by the People's Liberation Army.

The troops marched at their barracks in sweltering heat, clapped by the crowds.

The parade was designed to boost patriotic sentiment ahead of elections in September, says the BBC's correspondent in Beijing, Louisa Lim.

Pro-democracy legislators were invited to the parade as a goodwill gesture but some refused to attend, seeing the march as a political stunt.

One who did attend, Democratic Party chairman Yeung Sum said he was "very impressed by the good standard and training of the troops".

The 15,000 who watched the march is a lot less than the 500,000 or so who marched on 1st July this year (out of a population of around 6.5 million). The BBC, rarely happy about popular protest, reports the march by saying "Thousands took to the streets in protest on 1 July," which is a bit like saying a new Rolls Royce costs thousands of dollars - true but misleading. Still, the rest of the article is worth reading:
The march, by Hong Kong-based soldiers, comes against a backdrop of widespread discontent following Beijing's decision to rule out direct elections in Hong Kong in the near term.

Beijing has adopted a hardline political strategy, ruling out full democracy in Hong Kong in the near future and labelling its critics as traitors.

Many of the territory's citizens feel Beijing has reneged on its promise to give Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy.

Thousands took to the streets in protest on 1 July.

Beijing is using Army Day, which this year marks the 77th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, to send clear messages to both Hong Kong and Taiwan, our correspondent says.

The state-run media quotes Defence Minister Cao Gangchuan warning that China has the ability to smash any Taiwanese moves towards independence.

Beijing has been escalating its rhetoric towards Taiwan, which it sees as a renegade province.

More about the threats from China and on US sabre-rattling in future posts.

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