Hong Kong protests: How could China intervene?

Hong Kong is now entering its 11th week of unrest, with increasing outbreaks of violence and strikes causing major disruption.

The Chinese government has strongly criticised the protesters, but many are wondering whether it will eventually lose patience and take more direct action.

What legal options does Beijing have to intervene, and could we ever see Chinese military action in Hong Kong?

Could China send in the army?

The Basic Law – Hong Kong’s mini constitution since the UK handed the territory back to China in 1997 – is very clear. Chinese military intervention can only come at the request of the Hong Kong government, and for the “maintenance of public order and in disaster relief”.

Image caption The PLA has a presence of several thousand in Hong Kong

Most analysts say it is almost unthinkable that even a highly pro-Beijing Hong Kong government would want this.

Images of Chinese troops marching through Hong Kong crushing pro-democracy protests, even if they didn’t use lethal force, would be disastrous for the territory’s reputation, risk destabilising its economy and cause international outrage.

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has had…

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