11/18/2019, 00.00
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Chinese soldiers in Hong Kong as street sweepers or ‘Trojan horse’

Some 50 PLA ​​soldiers “volunteered” to clean up some of Hong Kong streets. They belong to the Xuefeng brigade, which specialises in counter-terrorist actions in Xinjiang and Tibet. For mainland Chinese, they are "good news". For many in Hong Kong, they are a warning.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Many Internet users are wondering whether 50 Chinese soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) who helped clear debris in the streets in Hong Kong wearing Bermuda shorts and basketball T-shirts are street cleaners, who make Hong Kong and China proud, or a Trojan horse infiltrating the civilian population to better study how to attack protesters.

The soldiers, from the PLA Hong Kong garrison, left their barracks two days ago and with broom, buckets and shovels set off to clean Junction Road and Waterloo Road, removing bricks, stones and barricades set by protesters.

One of the soldiers said their action had nothing to do with the Hong Kong government. “We volunteered! Stopping violence and ending chaos is our responsibility,” he said, quoting President Xi Jinping from a speech he gave in Brasilia.

Joined by some local residents and police officers, the soldiers cleaned up the roadblocks within an hour before going back to their barracks.

Some opposition Members in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council condemned the action. Under Autonomous Region’s Basic Law, the PLA can intervene and leave its barracks only at the request of Hong Kong’s chief executive.

A government spokesman on Saturday said the garrison had “volunteered” its services and it was not at their request.

On the Internet discussion has centred on whether PLA soldiers are being used the way Russian soldiers were in the Crimea, who were first sent peacefully, then – on Putin’s orders – turned aggressive.

In mainland China, the action of "our soldiers" was praised as “the happiest news about Hong Kong in five months.”

A post on the PLA garrison’s official account about the clean-up attracted more than 130,000 replies and likes, and more than 15,000 shares in less than 24 hours.

Many however wonder how members of one of the most disciplined armies in the world can “volunteer” without orders.

For some bloggers, the T-shirts worn by the soldiers with the name Xuefeng Special Operations Brigade (picture 2) were a warning. The latter is famous for its anti-terrorist actions in Xinjiang and Tibet. (P.W.)

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