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Aug. 15, 2019
Notes from the Pentagon

Chinese military preparing crackdown
U.S. intelligence agencies are closely watching Chinese troop movements in Shenzhen near Hong Kong where several hundred thousand People’s Liberation Army and People’s Armed Police troops are massing along with armored vehicles.

Satellite photos published this week showed an estimated 500 armored personnel carriers and military trucks parked in a sports stadium in Shenzhen, a city near Hong Kong.

State-run Chinese media reports over the past week have provided indications that the ruling Communist Party is preparing the population for a major military crackdown on the former British colony, one that likely could resemble the 1989 massacre of pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

Hong Kong protesters, many waving American flags, for several weeks have been pressing Beijing to abide by its promised “one country, two systems” policy that allowed a democratic system to operate in Hong Kong.

However, China under President Xi Jinping has been gradually tightening the screws on Hong Kong by quietly replacing non-Communist Party city government leaders with Beijing loyalists.

The triggering event for the current protests was a proposed new extradition law that would allow Beijing authorities to send people to mainland China to face the arbitrary rule under Party dictates.

The most recent ominous report on the impending crackdown was broadcast on state-run China Central Television on Wednesday.

Chinese propaganda has gone all out to portray the protesters as violent extremists and praising the Hong Kong police officers who have clashed with the dissidents. State media has described the situation on Wednesday as “near terrorism.”

Headlined “Taking more powerful actions to stop the violence and riots,” the CCTV report warned the extreme violence in the city is bringing the semi-autonomous enclave to the “brink of collapse.”

The protests have focused on Hong Kong International Airport, which has seen hundreds of flights disrupted as thousands of pro-democracy protesters stated several days of sit-ins. Clashes have involved tear gas, the firing of rubber bullets and the use of batons to beat protesters.

“The days of those chaotic protesters are numbered; it is useless for them to flounder desperately before dying,” the report said.

“Once the power of justice is unleashed, it shall hit them ruthlessly.”

The report said it is imperative that the protests be stopped. “Let us protect Hong Kong together! Those violent extremists shall become running rats fleeing across the streets. We shall bring the clear sky back to Hong Kong again,” CCTV said.

Estimates of the numbers of Chinese military, intelligence and security forces currently inside Hong Kong is about 70,000 people, including plain-clothes Chinese police and special forces military personnel. Those forces are in addition to the Hong Kong police force.

Protesters recently uncovered some of the infiltrators and beat them.

The Trump administration has taken a hands-off approach to the protests, offering little public support for the democratic protests.

President Trump on Tuesday told reporters the situation in Hong Kong “is a very tough situation. Very tough.”

“We’ll see what happens, but I’m sure it’ll work out. I hope it works out for everybody, including China, by the way. I hope it works out for everybody,” he added.

Earlier, Mr. Trump tweeted that U.S. intelligence reported that Chinese troops were moving to the border with Hong Kong and said, “Everyone should be calm and safe!”

Asked if he is concerned about a crackdown, the president said: “Oh, it’s a very tricky situation. I think it’ll work out, and I hope it works out for liberty. I hope it works out for everybody, including China. I hope it works out peacefully. I hope nobody gets hurts. I hope nobody gets killed.”

Chinese nuclear missiles shown
Chinese internet photos posted online this week revealed that the People’s Liberation Army is massing missile forces in preparation for the upcoming Oct. 1 anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China.

For the first time, the PLA Rocket Force has revealed a group of 18 new Dong Feng-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) at the Yangfang training ground near Beijing. The site has been used in the past as a gathering point for large military parades.

“Participation in the large PRC anniversary military parade is usually a strong indicator that a weapon is operational,” said Rick Fisher, a China military affairs expert.

Mr. Fisher, who closely monitors Chinese military developments, said the entry into service of the new DF-41 is not a surprise but adds to the strategic message of China’s growing military power that the government is seeking to project with the upcoming parade.

The photos of the DF-41s appeared on the Chinese microblog Weibo and showed 18 of the missiles on mobile launchers.

“The gathering of 18 missiles and launchers in Beijing is a possible indication that the PLA Rocket force now has three brigades of these missiles, assuming that a PLA Rocket Force intercontinental missile unit has six launchers,” Mr. Fisher said.

Details of the DF-41 are not known, but the missile could be outfitted with as many as 10 multiple-independently targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRV, warheads, representing a significant jump in the number of Chinese strategic warheads.

The photos of the DF-41 also included the new DF-31AG ICBM, an improved version of the DF-31.

“China’s revelation that it may have up to 18 DF-41s in service is reminder that America is in a vital arms race with China,” Mr. Fisher said. “It is imperative that the U.S. build up to deter China in theater-range ballistic missiles, and be prepared to increase the number of U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles to deter a combined Chinese and Russian nuclear coercive threats.”

Congress fights Chinese buses
The House and Senate are debating whether to ban the U.S. government from purchasing Chinese-made buses or subway cars over national security concerns.

Two versions of the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill contain language that would ban using taxpayer funds to buy Chinese buses or train cars. The House version of the defense bill, where Democrats are in charge, would prohibit the U.S. government from buying Chinese rail cars but does ban the use of taxpayer funds to purchase Chinese electric buses. The bill produced in the Republican-majority Senate contains a ban on purchases of all Chinese-made transportation products including both railcars and buses.

The Senate version, sources say, is an effort to prevent the purchase of electric buses made by a Chinese firm BYD, which has a record of poor quality in its products. The national security concerns are based on fears the Chinese-made buses and trains come with location trackers and other gear that could be used to spy on Americans.

The House version prohibits transit agencies from buying railcars, an estimated $18 billion market, from Chinese state-owned, state-controlled, or state-subsidized firms. The Senate bill also includes buses.

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, is pushing to keep the blanket ban on Chinese transportation products. His home district includes the Dallas-based Trinity Industries, Inc., a major domestic railcar manufacturer.

The House version is being pushed by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, Massachusetts Democrat. The Democrat’s district includes a U.S. subsidiary plant of the Chinese state-owned China’s state-owned CRRC Corp., which has sold railcars to several major U.S. cities.

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

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