The surprise turnout of Chinese soldiers in Hong Kong on Saturday to help clean up protesters’ roadblocks has been cheered by mainland internet users, as well as by some people living in the city, especially those from mainland China. Despite many analysts saying the cost to Beijing’s international image of deploying the Hong Kong garrison of the People’s Liberation Army would be huge – and repeated expressions of support from the central government for the Hong Kong administration’s handling of the situation – the calls to tap the troops for help in restoring order have never ceased on the mainland’s social media. Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the nationalistic tabloid Global Times , even suggested last week that the paramilitary police stationed across the border and the local PLA garrison could “enter Hong Kong and offer support in accordance with the Basic Law when needed”. Meanwhile, the growing attacks by anti-government radicals against mainland Chinese establishments in the city has added to the unease of some mainlander communities in Hong Kong. So when pictures and video clips of about 50 Chinese soldiers emerging on to the streets outside the Kowloon East barracks to help clear roadblocks started circulating on the internet, there was soon widespread acclaim and encouragement from the mainland’s online community, with few opposing views. A post on the PLA garrison’s official account on microblogging platform Weibo about the clean-up attracted more than 130,000 replies and likes, and more than 15,000 shares in less than 24 hours after going online about 8pm on Saturday. “This is the happiest news about Hong Kong in five months. I am very happy, extremely comfortable, and [it showed] great wisdom. I am proud of the Hong Kong garrison,” wrote one Weibo user. Another said: “Our army that Western media and politicians had waited five months for finally appeared. However, the soldiers did not shout and kill as they hoped. Instead, they carried buckets and joined citizens to clear the roadblocks. When watching the video of the people’s soldiers coming out of the barracks, the crowds applauding the scenes were deeply touched.” Chinese professor hit by online backlash over Hong Kong protest posts While the garrison’s move – described by one of the soldiers as “volunteering” – received both approval and criticism in the city, discussions about whether the clean-up of protesters’ roadblocks complied with the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, did not appear among the popular social media posts on the mainland. Some mainlanders who live and work in Hong Kong also expressed their strong support for Saturday’s move. “It stabilises people of our kind’s heart. We oppose violence always but dared not to speak out. [The garrison’s] action is like a trigger to let us dare to stand up and defend our right to oppose violence. I believe that more people will stand up, opposing roadblocks, opposing violence, and fighting for our right to work and live a normal life,” said a business professor teaching in Hong Kong, who refused to give his name.