Beijing slams PLA barracks break-in

Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office insists pro-independence campaigners must be punished as four suspects are arrested

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 January, 2014, 2:59am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 January, 2014, 4:43pm

Beijing has expressed "grave concern" over a break-in by Hong Kong pro-independence activists at the People's Liberation Army barracks in Admiralty, hours after four suspects were arrested.

A group of between four and six people broke into the Central Barracks on Boxing Day, carrying colonial-era Hong Kong flags and calling on the PLA to "get out" of the city. They are believed to be members of a group calling itself Hongkongers Come First.

Billy Chiu Hin-chung, 28, was picked up by the Central District crime squad on Hong Kong Island yesterday, while Dickson Cheung Hon-yin, 40, was arrested in Cheung Chau.

Two other people, a 29-year-old woman and a 15-year-old boy, were arrested during yesterday's Civil Human Rights Front pro-democracy march. Police say a fifth man, arrested for an unrelated theft offence during the march, was also a suspect in the break-in.

Nobody has yet been charged.

Chiu and Cheung were later released on bail. They must report back to the police later this month. The other two were detained for questioning last night.

Under the Public Order Ordinance, entering a "closed area" without permission carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.

Hours after the arrests, Beijing's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office broke its silence on the incident.

State media quoted a spokesman for the office as saying troops in the PLA's Hong Kong garrison were performing defensive duties in accordance with the law and were a symbol of national sovereignty. The barracks were protected by law, he said, and those who disregarded the law and broke into the barracks should be punished.

The group reportedly broke into the barracks in protest at a controversial plan to hand over a nearby slice of prime harbourfront land for the construction of a military pier. The government says the site must go to the military under a 1994 Sino-British deal, but there has been concern over a loss of public access.

Group member Tsang Wing-man told the Post the group's action was meant to "test the ability of the PLA". She claimed military officers were on the verge of drawing their guns and criticised them for their reaction.

But the group's actions have been condemned by most pan-democrats, including radicals.

The group's Facebook page, which contains messages advocating independence for Hong Kong, had more than 760 "likes" as of last night.

After the arrests, the group posted a message saying: "Four brave warriors have been arrested … other members were on their way to rescue them from the police". It also promised unspecified "revenge".