The fear of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA’s) Hong Kong garrison being called in to put an end to recent unrest rose after its leader, Chen Daoxiang, warned that violence would not be tolerated and that the PLA was determined to preserve China’s sovereignty. The comments were made at a reception in Hong Kong to celebrate the 92nd anniversary of the Chinese military. A video showing the PLA’s ability to stop any disruptions by demonstrators was also released.

At the crux of the unrest is an extradition bill that has polarized those who oppose it against the Hong Kong Government and Police Force. Protesters are concerned about human rights abuses by Chinese authorities on those who are whisked off to the mainland to face trumped up charges. The riots have gone on for several weeks and the Hong Kong Police have not been able to stop the violence.

Deployment of the PLA garrison is considered a last resort but as the riots continue the possibility of it rises. Chen had remained silent on the matter until the reception where he said, “Recently, there have been a series of extremely violent incidents happening in Hong Kong.”

He continued, “this has damaged the prosperity and stability of the city and challenged the rule of law and social order. The incidents have seriously threatened the life and safety of Hong Kong citizens, and violated the bottom line of ‘one country, two systems.’"

The three-minute video shows anti-terrorism and anti-riot drills, and in one scene an unknown soldier shouts in Cantonese, “All consequences are at your own risk.” Other language and images in the video were aimed at showing viewers the PLA’s ability to stop the unrest and create long-term stability.

The current Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam and its former leader Tung Chee-hwa both attended the reception and Chen did appear to pay lip service as to the PLA’s support of Lam and the Police Force.

“We resolutely support the action to maintain Hong Kong’s rule of law by the people who love the nation and the city, and we are determined to protect national sovereignty, security, stability and the prosperity of Hong Kong,” he said.

Despite the comments by Chen and the video, the status of the PLA deployment is still as a last resort. A mainland tabloid newspaper, the Global Times, supported by the People’s Daily said in an editorial piece by editor-in-chief Hu Xijin that troops should be deployed in Hong Kong only in the event of the city being turned into an anti-China base by the U.S., a humanitarian disaster, or armed riots by radicals trying to take control of the city’s nerve center.

Chinese People's Liberation Army
Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) navy honor guard stand at attention during a ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Nov. 26, 2007. China is apparently seeking closer military ties with Iran. Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images