“I will resolutely protect the interests, security and national sovereignty in Hong Kong and guarantee the stability of the territory”General Peng Jingtang promised when he took up his new post at the head of the Hong Kong-based People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on Monday, January 10.
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In a context of complete takeover of Hong Kong society and institutions by Beijing, the appointment by Xi Jinping himself of this strong general, is not trivial. This very high-ranking official led for years the Chinese anti-terrorism special forces in the Muslim province of Xinjiang where more than a million Uyghurs are imprisoned in re-education camps.
“Each of our bullets is aimed at the battlefield”
Little is known about the career of this professional soldier other than that he distinguished himself in the fight against terrorism in Xinjiang. Three years ago, according to information from China’s Reference News, a branch of the New China Agency, Peng Jingtang led an elite unit dubbed the “Mountain Eagle Commando” specially trained in wrestling. anti-terrorism in Xinjiang. “Each of our bullets is aimed at the battlefield”, he would have entrusted to the official journal Global Times. He also revealed that the amount of ammunition used during his commando training in a year was three times that of other units.
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With such a reputation, General Peng comes to consolidate the structures of control and maintenance of order in the former British colony, ceded back to China in 1997. His appointment is in addition to those of other Chinese political leaders. with a strong anti-repression curriculum.
The repressive apparatus continues to strengthen in Hong Kong
In early 2020, after major pro-democracy protests and the arrival of the coronavirus epidemic from Wuhan, Luo Huining was appointed head of the Liaison Office, representing the Chinese central government in Hong Kong. Close to Xi Jinping, he was the architect of the brutal anti-corruption campaign launched by Xi in 2013 in China. In the same year, Xia Baolong, author of a violent anti-Christian campaign to destroy churches in Zhejiang province, was appointed director of the Bureau of Hong Kong and Macao Affairs.
“This new appointment of General Peng is part of a great political and military reshuffle ahead of the holding of the Twentieth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party next October and also because the situation outside of China is volatile”, a knowledgeable source assured the English-language Hong Kong daily South China Morning Post. “Hong Kong must remain calm and stable because there will be the election of the next chief executive in March. “
Normally, according to Article 14 of the Basic Law (Local Constitution), the continental armed forces “Will not interfere in the internal affairs of the Hong Kong Administrative Region”. The government may, if it deems it necessary, request their assistance. “To maintain public order and in the event of a natural disaster”.
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In fact, the role of the 10,000 Chinese soldiers based in Hong Kong (at 19 sites including 12 barracks, one located in the heart of the Central business district) has evolved since their discreet arrival in 1997. From the protection of the territory, they have evolved into a force specialized in counterterrorism and riot control since the 2019 protests. With General Peng at their head, Beijing wants to ensure that “law and order” will reign in Hong Kong. Like in Xinjiang.