Officers from China’s top internal security force – the People’s Armed Police – joined Hong Kong police on the frontlines to observe anti-government protests that peaked last year, according to a senior foreign diplomat and an opposition politician.
Hong Kong police took PAP officers to monitor the protesters and their tactics as part of a wider effort by the paramilitary force to deepen its understanding of the Hong Kong situation, they said.
“I’m aware that Hong Kong police officers have taken Chinese security forces to the front during protests, apparently in an observation role,” veteran democratic legislator James To told Reuters.
To said he had reason to believe the Chinese forces included members of locally-based PAP units.
The foreign diplomat, who requested anonymity and declined to be quoted due to sensitivity over commenting on security matters, also said PAP officers accompanied police to the frontlines.
The Chinese Defence Ministry said the PAP was not stationed in Hong Kong, while a Hong Kong police spokesman said they “stress that there is no such visit or observation by any members of the mainland law enforcement agencies”.
The diplomat and three other foreign envoys, however, estimated that China’s government had ramped up the paramilitary People’s Armed Police (PAP) presence in Hong Kong to as many as 4,000 personnel – far more than previously known estimates.
Their assessments were based on intense scrutiny of the security forces’ response to the pro-democracy protests, which began last June, but have ebbed this year amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.