• Footage showing officers in Shenzhen using tear gas and water cannon against 'protesters' published by state media
  • Drill was the third such exercise this month as anti-government protests continue across the border
Members of the People's Armed Police Force stage an anti-riot drill in Shenzhen. Photo: EPA-EFE

Armed Chinese police held another drill that featured anti-riot exercises just across the border from Hong Kong as the city's protests entered their 11th week.

A minute-long video of the drill was published by the official WeChat account of the state-owned tabloid Global Times on Friday night, in which hundreds of regular and armed police are shown assembled in an unspecified location in Shenzhen.

At the beginning of the video, one police officer shouted to the crowd in Cantonese that the protesters should "stop violence and repent".

Global Times, an affiliate of the party mouthpiece People's Daily, did not specify the purpose of the exercises, but the video showed the use of tear gas, armoured vehicles and water cannons against mock protesters.

The exercise featured mock protesters dressed in black T-shirts. Photo: EPA-EFE

Officers in body armour, helmets, shields and holding flags, banners and batons, confronted groups of people wearing black shirts and construction safety helmets resembling those worn by Hong Kong protesters.

The video was later reposted by the official account of People's Daily on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter, and garnered more than 40,000 likes.

It was the third anti-riot drill conducted in the past two weeks on the Chinese mainland using both regular and armed police.

The People's Armed Police are a paramilitary force under the sole command of the Central Military Commission, which oversees the nation's armed forces.

Regular police officers, in contrast, are managed by the Ministry of Public Security.

On August 6, more than 12,000 police officers assembled in Shenzhen for a drill that included anti-riot measures. The purpose of the exercise, according to Shenzhen police, was to make security preparations for the celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China on October 1.

On August 10, footage of armed police trucks rolling into Shenzhen began circulating online.

Both People's Daily and Global Times posted videos of the convoy the next day, saying the police were there to prepare for large-scale drills.

Satellite images collected later by Maxar WorldView showed 500 or more vehicles parked in and around a soccer stadium just 2km (1.5 miles) away from the Shenzhen Bay checkpoint into Hong Kong.

The drills fuelled speculation that Beijing was planning to send armed police into Hong Kong to suppress the civil unrest sparked by the Hong Kong government's now-shelved extradition bill, which would have allowed criminal suspects to be transferred to other jurisdictions including mainland China.

People's Armed Police Force vehicles parked near Shenzhen Bay sports centre on Saturday. Photo: EPA-EFE

Zhou Chenming, a Beijing based military expert, said the situation in Hong Kong was nearing the point where the government and local police lose control, which might push Beijing to declare an emergency, apply mainland Chinese law in Hong Kong, and intervene with armed police to crush the anti-government protests.

"Chinese law says the People's Armed Police Force can participate in handling riots, disturbances, severe violent crimes, terrorist attacks, other social peace incidents and other security protection missions assigned by the state," said Zhou.

Zhang Dinghuai, a Hong Kong policy researcher at Shenzhen University, said Article 18 of Hong Kong's Basic Law allows the Beijing government to declare a state of emergency.

Once this is happens, the central government can issue orders applying mainland laws in the city, for example one allowing the People's Armed Police to be deployed.

However, Zhang said Beijing hoped that this would not prove necessary.

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