China's People's Liberation Army releases video showing troops shooting in 'anti-riot' exercises

China appears to be warning Hong Kong protesters that it will use the People's Liberation Army to ruthlessly crush protests, using the sophisticated weapons at its command.  As with the 1989 slaughter of democracy protestors in Tiananmen Square, China's ruling class is not about to let its dictatorial powers ("the dictatorship of the proletariat," praised by Marx and Engels) slip away.  Nor will China tolerate any breakaway moves in any territory it considers its own.  No amount of bloodshed is too much.

YouTube screen grab.

The video below was posted to the official Weibo (China's dominant social media platform) account of the PLA's Hong Kong Garrison.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports:

The three-minute video posted on the Hong Kong garrison's official Weibo social media account late on Wednesday included footage of troops firing guns and rockets, and of light tanks, attack helicopters and missile launchers.

The PLA has remained in barracks since political protests began in April, leaving Hong Kong's police force to deal with the massive and often violent confrontations in the Asian financial hub.

In one sequence in the PLA video, titled "anti-riot drill footage", ranks of troops advance with shields and truncheons, firing rifles into the air.

Tear gas and water cannons rain down on their opponents, as armoured personnel carriers with battering rams raced forward, and troops lay barbed wire coils on the ground.

Some of the opponents portrayed in the video are wearing helmets and masks, much like those worn by protesters who have regularly taken to Hong Kong's streets during the past two months.

"All consequences are at your own risk," one soldier shouts in Cantonese.

A red flag with the words "Warning. Stop charging or we use force" was also held aloft, similar to what Hong Kong police have used during actual protests.

At the end of the clip, several protesters with their hands cuffed can be seen being taken away.

China's propaganda organs are praising the PLA as committed to" safeguarding the country's sovereignty and security, as well as Hong Kong's prosperity and stability."

The PLA is the largest standing army in the world and is under the control and committed to protecting the Chinese Communist Party, not the Chinese state.  The PLA operates a vast empire of enterprises in China, not merely military units.  It is a world unto itself, in other words.

With the harsh rhetoric about "decoupling" from the United States in the ongoing trade war, it is clear that Xi Jinping is pushing a hard line, even at the cost of economic sacrifice and bloodshed.  He no doubt hopes to quell opposition within the Politburo and Presidium by appeals to patriotism and national unity.

Make no mistake: if Hong Kong is violently suppressed, its position as a global financial center and prosperous entrepot to China will be severely damaged, costing some of the hundred or more billionaires in the Chinese political leadership serious money.  Hong Kong offers a convenient way to ship funds out of China and engage in activities that would cause censure or worse if attempted at home.

A simultaneous trade war and crackdown on Hong Kong will, in other words, be costly for people with political influence.  Xi has already used "anti-corruption" campaigns to target his political opponents within the ruling elite.  We may see more of this, and economic pain.  Xi knows that the real legitimacy of the regime and the Communist Party now depends on delivering economic progress to the masses as well as the elites.  China may be in for regression in the direction of dictatorship and a leaner life for its people and elites.  We'll see how that works out for Xi's rule, and the welfare of the Chinese people.

Hat tip: John McMahon.

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