The PLA “spontaneously” leaves their barracks to clear roadblocks and deals with a rally, without authorization from the Hong Kong Government
On 16th November, about 100 members of the People’s Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison paraded out of the Kowloon Tong Barracks at 4:00 p.m. on Renfrew Road outside Hong Kong Baptist University. Most of the army men are in military green shirts, while the rest wore orange vests with the words “8th Company of Special Operations” on them.
The PLA did not bring any equipment with them, but plastic buckets and brooms. They removed the barricades set up by the protesters in bare hands and put them into a bucket at the roadside. Firemen and Police Tactical Unit were also present, and some military personnel used cameras to capture this scene. During that time, an officer-looking soldier said “I am the PLA” and told reporters that “it was all spontaneous” and that the aim was Hong Kong’s security and stability. After roughly 45 minutes, the roadblock at Renfrew Road was largely cleared and the PLA garrison assembled in squads and marched back to the barracks. A large number of reporters followed them outside the barracks, and some of the soldiers stationed at the gates asked the reporters to leave.
In mid-October last year, the PLA also went to a country park to clean up the fallen trees after Typhoon Mangkhut. The Government stressed that the PLA Hong Kong Garrison was only invited to take part in public welfare activities and was not in breach of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Garrisoning of the HKSAR (Garrison Law).
Willy Wo-Lap Lam, a current affairs commentator familiar with China’s practices, said it was unlikely that the PLA would be able to operate spontaneously because they were highly subservient forces that needed instructions from superiors to perform this type of mission.
According to Garrison Law of People’s Republic of China, the duties of the PLA Hong Kong Garrison include “preparing for and resisting aggression, safeguarding the security of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region”, “undertaking defencing affairs”, “managing military facilities” and “undertaking related military affairs involving external parties”, and its Article 9 also stipulates that “the PLA Hong Kong Garrison shall not interfere with the local affairs of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region”.
As to whether the PLA can leave their barracks and “volunteer to do disaster relief work” at “their own initiative”? According to the Garrison Law, the Hong Kong Garrison may perform its duties only if Hong Kong is in a “state of war” or in a state of emergency due to unrest in Hong Kong that “uncontrollably endangers national unity”. Article 14 of the Garrison Law stipulates that if Hong Kong needs the assistance of the People’s Liberation Army in the maintenance of public order and disaster relief, the HKSAR Government must first seek the approval of Chinese Central Government before the Central Military Commission could order the garrison to set up battalions to carry out the duties, and return to the garrison immediately upon completion of the duties.
Under Article 14 of the Basic Law and Article 9 of the Garrison Law, the Garrison shall not interfere with the local affairs of Hong Kong. However, the Garrison may perform the following duties in Hong Kong as directed by the Government of the HKSAR or the Chinese Central Government, including, where necessary, requesting the assistance of the Garrison from the Central Government in the maintenance of public order and the relief of disasters; in the event that the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress decides to declare a state of war, or in the event that a state of emergency is declared in Hong Kong as a result of a disturbance beyond the control of the Government of the HKSAR and endangers national unity or security, the Garrison shall perform its duties in accordance with the provisions of such nation-wide laws as the Central Government may decide to apply in Hong Kong.