China mobilises troops in Hong Kong for joint exercises

China’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 25 June 2024, that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) mobilised troops from its Army, Navy and Air Force for a joint patrol in Hong Kong, training for operations including ‘special situation handling’.

The mobilisation of troops in Hong Kong included infantry and materiel, including helicopters and maritime vessels, “carried out under real combat conditions’ according to the MoD release: “The training accentuated swift preparation and command, barracks defense and emergency rescue, which improved the troops’ capability of handling emergencies and fulfilling diverse military missions.”

The recent exercise in Hong Kong is one of a number China has performed in the territory since Spring 2023 to have garnered criticism as an overt demonstration of force intended to quell public expression of dissatisfaction and organised protest or demonstrations. 

Beijing, mindful of the difficulties in maintaining a civil peace across a population in excess of one billion people, responded to the Arab Spring and the colour revolutions of the last two decades with an enhanced system of repressive controls. 

A campaign of activism for greater civil freedom in Hong Kong has shaken the semi-autonomous territory over recent years, and sparked a repressive response. China has warded off international calls for a restoration of democratic freedoms. These freedoms were originally secured up until a date 50-years after return of the former British-colony to Chinese rule, in 1997, under the “one country, two systems” principle. 

An International Institute of Strategic Studies report published in May 2024 looked at 130 exercises conducted but the PLA between 2003 and 2022, found China has significantly increased its tempo of joint military drills across Asia in recent years, but that the complexity and size of these exercises lags behind the volume and sophistication of the 1,130 exercises the US has engaged in within the same period. 

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