China is escalating its threats towards pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong as the movement is set to enter its 11th week. China’s ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, said on Thursday that China has “enough power to swiftly quell unrest” if it decides the situation is “uncontrollable”.
China’s paramilitary People’s Armed Police has marched and practised crowd control tactics at a sports complex in Shenzhen, a city across from Hong Kong.
Chinese state media claimed on Friday that any response to the protests “won’t be a repeat” of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
A mass movement in Hong Kong has got the authorities on the run. Protests began in June in opposition to an extradition bill that would allow suspects to be extradited to China. This would allow Chinese authorities to target their political opponents in Hong Kong.
The protests quickly morphed into a movement over wider demands including more democracy and freedom.
Cops refused permission for several protests planned in Hong Kong this weekend. They have allowed only a static rally against police violence on Sunday to go ahead.
Timothy Lee, who applied for one of the banned marches, burned his police rejection letter in front of reporters. “Hong Kong people are very angry,” he said. “Even if I tell people not to do anything on Saturday, their anger will not disappear.”
Previous bans failed to stop people taking to the streets. Now the state and its backers are ratcheting up the repression. A number of student leaders in universities say they have received messages threatening them and their families.
Keith Fong , leader of the Baptist University’s student union, was arrested for possession of offensive weapons on Tuesday of last week. He was released unconditionally after 47 hours.
At a student press conference on Thursday, Leung Siu-yuk from the student union said she had received a Facebook message from someone called “Luck Lee”.
It said Leung should think before she does anything, or the person will go to her family home. It included names and addresses of family members. Leung also said a poster near her home had threatened to kill her.
She said, “This is an organised threat against the student union to silence us. I am afraid. But I know I have been doing what is right. I will not be silenced.”
Another student, Leung Yiu-ting, also said he’d seen a threatening poster including his address near his home on Thursday. He is acting president of the Education University student union.
He said a group of unknown men had visited his home on Friday morning, when he was away.
Former external vice president of the University of Hong Kong, Pang Ka-ho, said he had also received threats. He said these told him to surrender to the police or he and his family would be killed.
One Facebook message, also from “Luck Lee,” included his father’s name and address.
Several students also say they have been followed recently by people they don’t know.
As well as threats and attacks from groups of individuals, demonstrators have faced repression from the police. Police said on Friday that they have arrested 748 people since the protests began in June. And one woman may be blind in one eye because of an attack by police in Tsim Sha Tsui on Sunday.
The response to the movement, which has included Hong Kong’s first general strike in half a century, shows the fear of those at the top.