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China Flexes Muscle Near Hong Kong     08/17 09:08

   SHENZHEN, China (AP) -- Members of China's paramilitary People's Armed 
Police marched and practiced crowd control tactics at a sports complex in 
Shenzhen across from Hong Kong in what some interpreted as a threat against 
pro-democracy protesters in the semi-autonomous territory.

   The sound of marching boots and synchronized shouts echoed from the grounds 
on Friday. Officers in green camouflage stood guard at closed entrances. A 
stadium security guard said "it wasn't clear" when the paramilitary police 
would leave the grounds.

   Chinese state media have only said that the Shenzhen exercises were planned 
earlier and were not directly related to the unrest in Hong Kong, though they 
came shortly after the central government in Beijing said the protests were 
beginning to show the "sprouts of terrorism."

   From a distance, police could be seen conducting drills in military 
fatigues, using shields, poles and other riot-control gear. In one exercise, 
two groups marched in formation with those in front raising shields as if to 
protect themselves from projectiles. Others behind held red flags and banners. 
The words "the law" and "prosecuted" could be seen on one.

   Outside, dozens of armored carriers and trucks sat in the parking lot of the 
Shenzhen Bay Stadium, close to a bridge linking mainland China to Hong Kong.

   Asked if Hong Kong police could maintain order or if mainland Chinese 
intervention is becoming inevitable, Hong Kong police commander Yeung Man-pun 
said that while they face tremendous pressure, "I can tell you we're confident 
the police have the capability to maintain law and order."

   Germany, meanwhile, said it considers China to be a responsible actor that 
will respect Hong Kong laws guaranteeing freedom of speech and rule of law.

   Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Friday that Hong Kong's 1997 Basic 
Law, under which the city was promised a high degree of autonomy when the 
former British colony returned to China, "is a Chinese law, and as such we 
naturally expect that the People's Republic of China, too, won't call into 
question the peaceful exercise of these rights."

   Weeks of protests in Hong Kong have been marked by increasing violence and a 
shutdown of the Hong Kong airport earlier this week. The demonstrators are 
demanding expanded political rights and the scrapping of legislation that could 
have seen criminal suspects sent to mainland China.

   A weekend of protests began Friday night with a university student-led 
"power to the people" rally in Chater Garden, a public square in the financial 
district.

   A pro-democracy march is planned for Saturday along with a separate 
pro-government "Save Hong Kong" rally, ahead of a major pro-democracy rally 
called for Sunday. Police have denied permission for the march on Sunday, but 
protesters have ignored such denials in the past.

   China has pressured foreign and Hong Kong companies to support the ruling 
Communist Party's position against the protesters.

   The CEO of Cathay Pacific Airways, one of Hong Kong's most prominent 
companies, resigned Friday following pressure by Beijing on the carrier over 
participation by some of its employees in the anti-government protests.

   Cathay Pacific said Rupert Hogg resigned "to take responsibility" following 
"recent events."

   The company chairman, John Slosar, said in a statement the airline needed 
new management because events had "called into question" its commitment to 
safety and security.

   On Monday, Hogg threatened employees with "disciplinary consequences" if 
they took part in "illegal protests.'

   Last week, China's aviation regulator said Cathay Pacific employees who 
"support or take part in illegal protests, violent actions, or overly radical 
behavior" are banned from staffing flights to mainland China.

   On Friday morning, Frenchman Alain Robert, who has been dubbed "spiderman" 
for his unauthorized climbs of skyscrapers, hung a banner appealing for peace 
as he scaled the 62-story Cheung Kong Center, a landmark Hong Kong building 
that is the base for property tycoon Li Ka-shing's business empire.

   The banner showed the Chinese and Hong Kong flags over a handshake and a 
small yellow sun with a smiley face.

   "The banner is to give joy and smile to the people of Hong Kong," he told 
the AP as he sat in a taxi about to leave for his climb. He added that he 
didn't want to get "mixed up in the political situation."

   Robert, 57, was taken to a police station afterward. It wasn't immediately 
clear if he would be charged. He was banned in 2017 from returning to Hong Kong 
for one year after climbing another building.


(KR)

 
 
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