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China spotlights military drill amid HK protests

May raises 'concerns' over Hong Kong with China

July 04, 2019 00:00:00

BEIJING, July 03 (AFP): An army-linked newspaper in China has run photos of a week-old military drill in Hong Kong, a move analysts described as a warning to Beijing's critics as the city grapples with a wave of anti-government protests.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) has maintained a garrison in Hong Kong since the former British colony was returned to Beijing in 1997, but its troops generally keep a low profile and are rarely seen in uniform in public.

The unit's routine military exercises have not attracted much attention in the past.

But a PLA-affiliated newspaper posted photos of the week-old military drill on Tuesday - a day after pro-democracy protesters ransacked Hong Kong's legislature and left anti-Beijing messages on its walls in an unprecedented show of anger.

Huge rallies have shaken the semi-autonomous territory since last month, sparked by opposition to a bill that would allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland.

The PLA Daily said on its verified account on the Twitter-like Weibo platform that the joint exercise last Wednesday - which involved ground forces, the navy and the air force - were aimed at "reviewing and raising the units' combat abilities in emergency dispatches".

The photos showed Chinese soldiers pointing automatic rifles on a boat, a PLA helicopter, and warships.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday she had raised her "concerns" over protecting Hong Kong's autonomy with China's rulers after another round of pro-democracy protests in the former British colony.

"I have raised my concerns directly with Chinese leaders," May told British MPs in the House of Commons.

"It's vital that Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy and the rights and freedoms… are respected."

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