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Would China risk another Tiananmen in Hong Kong?
574  CNA 


While China might be exploiting fears of a bloody "Tiananmen" crackdown on Hong Kong's protest movement, analysts say the potentially catastrophic economic and political consequences will deter Beijing from any overt boots-on-the ground intervention. As the clashes between pro-democracy demonstrators and police in the former British colony have grown increasingly violent, Beijing's condemnation has become more ominous, with warnings that those who play with fire will "perish by it". At the same time, the military garrison maintained by People's Liberation Army in Hong Kong released a video showing an anti-riot drill in which soldiers with assault rifles, armoured personnel carriers and water cannons disperse a crowd of protesters.

"Beijing wants to use the threat of sending in the PLA, or other direct intervention, to try to scare off the protesters," said Ben Bland, research fellow at the Lowy Institute in Sydney. "But given the high level of operational risk - and the reputational and economic risks to China - sending in the PLA would be a dangerous move," Bland said. China's brutal 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square resulted in two years of economic near-stagnation as the country became an international pariah. The fallout from any similar intervention in Hong Kong would be far more severe.

The long-term stability of the international financial hub is crucial to China's economic well-being, and images of Chinese troops or riot police on the streets would be broadcast and live-streamed around the world. It would also have a major impact on Beijing's ambitions to reunify the mainland with the democratically-governed island of Taiwan. For the moment, China has restricted itself to voicing its total support for the Hong Kong police force.

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