The month-long protests in Hong Kong over an extradition bill have raised concerns that Beijing may resort to military force to quell the violence.

Hong Kong’s police force, government and even suspected involvement of Chinese Triads (organized crime syndicates that date back to the 1700s) have not been able to tamp down the protests, causing some to worry that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will soon be deployed to the city.

Any mention of the PLA evokes images of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests where a massive PLA force converged in Beijing and began firing at a crowd of pro-democracy student protesters. The iconic image of an unidentified man who became known as the “Tank Man” standing in front of a large armed tank blocking its progress has become the most famous symbol of the event.

It also proved that China’s leaders were willing to use military force to impose their will. China has whitewashed its history books so there is little mention of the event today in that country but in Hong Kong the memory of Tiananmen Square is still fresh.

People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers run in front of a panel showing a footage of the late Chinese paramount leader Mao Zedong, at a PLA naval base in Hong Kong, China on July 1, 2015, which marked the 18th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover from Britain to Chinese sovereignty. Reuters/Bobby Yip

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian made clear that the Garrison Law, in effect since the Chinese takeover of Hong Kong in 1997, is what allows the PLA to help maintain law and order at the request of Hong Kong’s government. This does nothing to ease concerns.

Wu added, “We are closely following the developments in Hong Kong, especially the violent attack against the central government’s liaison office by radicals on July 21”. He called the actions of the protesters “intolerable” and said, “Some behavior of the radical protesters is challenging the authority of the central government and the bottom line of ‘one country, two systems’" -- a reference to the formula that grants Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy for 50 years.

If there is a ‘silver lining,' it is that the odds of a PLA deployment are highly unlikely at present. The editor-in-chief of China’s nationalist publication Global Times, Hu Xijin, noted that any deployment would come at a “huge political cost” and result in a “severe uncertainly” to the situation.

Another Chinese authority, Liang Yunxiang, an international affairs expert at Peking University, says that any troops deployment would spark an international outcry and draw huge pressure from Western countries. He continued, “Britain, of course, would have the harshest criticism since it governed Hong Kong for a long time and signed treaties with China to ensure Beijing would keep its commitment to one country, two systems.”

The United States' response might be to review the 1992 Hong Kong Policy Act and that might drastically reduce Hong Kong’s status in the global financial arena.