Soldiers leave HK barracks in rare clean-up cameo

HONG KONG: Soldiers from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army briefly left their Hong Kong barracks on Saturday to help the clean-up after a week of disruption caused by pro-democracy protests, a rare and highly symbolic troop movement unsolicited by the city’s embattled government.
The action saw scores of soldiers from the garrison, which is confined to the barracks under Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, with crew cuts and identical gym kits conduct a lightning-quick removal of bricks and debris near their base.
There was no immediate confirmation of their identity but the Global Times, a Chinese state-run media outlet, tweeted that they were dressed-down “PLA soldiers” clearing away the “mess left by rioters”.
The appearance raised tensions in a city rocked by a week of intensified violence and chaos, which prompted China’s President Xi Jinping to warn the “one country, two systems” model governing Hong Kong was being jeopardised by the protests.
Semi-autonomous Hong Kong enjoys more freedoms than the mainland, although many feel those liberties are being chipped away.
Article 14 of the Basic Law — Hong Kong’s mini-constitution since its handover from Britain to China in 1997 — allows the local government to request help from PLA garrisons in the city in the event of a public order breakdown.
There was no immediate comment from the PLA spokesperson based in Hong Kong or the city’s embattled government, which under the law can only call on Beijing for help from the garrison to “maintain public order” or “disaster relief”. — AFP