• Sat
  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 9:42am
Mr. Shangkong
PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 September, 2014, 4:21am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 September, 2014, 4:22pm

Rumbling PLA carriers in Hong Kong set minds rolling

Moving armoured carriers on the streets of HK could have sent wrong signal to the people


George Chen is the Financial Editor and Mr. Shangkong Columnist at the South China Morning Post. George has covered China's political and economic changes since 2002. George is the author of two books -- This is Hong Kong I Know (2014) and Foreign Banks in China (2011). George has been named a 2014 Yale World Fellow. More about George: www.mrshangkong.com

If there is one issue sure to make the business community nervous about the future of Hong Kong, it is the prospect of the leaders in Beijing miscalculating the political situation in the city.

This looms as a larger concern for business figures than the direct impact of the pro-democracy Occupy Central movement.

Against this backdrop, it came as a surprise to many when at least four People's Liberation Army armoured personnel carriers - with guns mounted on turrets - were seen moving through the busy streets of Jordan and Yau Ma Tei on Thursday, according to media reports.

Videos and pictures of the PLA vehicles spread rapidly on the internet, prompting concern and speculation across the region, including from analysts and media in Singapore and Taiwan.

Our pro-Beijing friends may try to counter that such PLA vehicle movements should be considered uneventful, in the realm of basic transport matters for the military. But let's not forget the timing: Hongkongers saw those armoured vehicles on the streets just days before Beijing's announcement of landmark electoral reform for universal suffrage in the 2017 chief executive election. Just what signal is Beijing sending to Hong Kong's seven million residents?

It was completely unnecessary to move armoured vehicles around the city

Here's my advice to Beijing: the role of PLA in Hong Kong should be strictly limited to national defence. It was completely unnecessary to move armoured vehicles around the city at such a politically sensitive time. We all know that such an action can be easily misinterpreted by different stakeholders in the city, including the general public and business community.

The political situation in Hong Kong is already so complicated that it is testing many top scholars and senior diplomats. With the scenes of the armoured vehicles on the city's streets, the risks that both the leaders in Beijing and pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong may miscalculate each side's intentions are growing.

As for Occupy Central, some business leaders in the city apparently are not taking the threat too seriously.

"There is always something political going on," said Robert Partridge, an Asia-Pacific private equity leader at EY - one of the Big Four global accounting firms - at the South China Morning Post's Redefining Hong Kong debate on Friday.

"Business always goes on. Is it changing the course of Hong Kong? No," said the long-time resident.

The Occupy Central movement is certainly not a desirable situation and it will be a lose-lose outcome for Beijing and Hong Kong if things get out of hand. At such a sensitive time, let's at least keep the door open for communications - and please, avoid miscalculations.


George Chen is the financial editor and a columnist at the Post. Mr. Shangkong appears every Monday in print and online. Follow @george_chen on Twitter or visit facebook.com/mrshangkong


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This article is now closed to comments

This is total BS. I live near the PLA barracks and see these vehicles on the move every month or so. This is just irresponsible scare tactics by the pro-dems.
Formerly ******
Yeah, the PLA is merely moving vehicles to point A from point B. For example, in June of 1989, the CCP's PLA (really, it should be named the CCP-LA) moved to point A (Tienanmen Square) from point B (their barracks). Yeah, no problem here, the PLA just had to go to the gas station and pick up some eggs and bread from the grocery store.
的中國人民解放軍就僅僅從車輛到 A 點 b 點。例如,在 1989 年 6 月,中國共產黨中國人民解放軍 (真的,它應該被命名中國共產黨 LA) 從 B 點 (他們的營房) 搬到 A 點 (天安門廣場)。是的在這裡沒問題,中國人民解放軍剛剛走到加油站,撿起一些雞蛋,從雜貨店裡的麵包。
I recall in the old days, the British army routinely marched through Hong Kong streets during exercises but no one raised any concern.
Do let us know when you return to a reality-based understanding of the world.
Why don't you try being equally considerate of readers' time?
Mr Shangkong aka George Chen,
You are such a joke!!! I am on the floor rolling and laughing at your advice to the PLA. Who are you to give advice to the PLA? What skills, knowledge, expertise, experience in military affairs do you have to advise the PLA? You really are such a laughing stock.
Maybe the PLA needed to move the armoured carriers from one camp to another. In any case, what's wrong with the PLA moving their military assets and equipment about in HK which, after all, has returned to PRC. The PRC is the sovereign over over HK. Whatever one may think or debate about the one country two systems till the cows come home, the fact is that you are part of PRC. The PLA is the army that will defend HK in national defence if it ever came to that. So what's wrong if the PLA moves about or move their equipment in HK?
Why was this NOT a bigger story? Did the Chinese press cover it?
TIANANMEN coming to HK Town!!!
Don't trust China!!!
Don't feed the trolls




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