Beijing appoints military hardliner for Hong Kong

The appointment of Peng Jingtang, a senior military official who previously made his mark in Xinjiang, to the highest military post in Hong Kong indicates that China now also wants to eradicate the last remnants of resistance in Hong Kong.

The major general was appointed on January 9 by President Xi Jinping as the new head of the People’s Liberation Army in the former British crown colony. Peng previously led the paramilitary police, the PAP, in western China’s Xinjiang. In recent years, it is estimated that almost one in ten Uyghurs has been imprisoned in re-education camps. Peng and his PAP played a key role in this, so the pro-democracy forces in Hong Kong in particular will not be happy with his arrival.

The PAP focuses on tackling domestic threats. The organization took on a prominent role after the Tiananmen Square uprisings in 1989, when it became apparent that the Chinese military lacked sophisticated techniques to effectively smother domestic protests without using glaring force.

Threats from within

With Peng’s appointment, the military in Hong Kong will have a different role than before. Until now, the Chinese garrison stationed in Hong Kong has been concerned with outside threats and emphatically not with law enforcement in Hong Kong itself: that’s what the Hong Kong police were for. Peng’s appointment shows that the military will also become more focused on suppressing and combating what the Beijing government sees as dangerous threats from within: riots, demonstrations and attacks and any form of resistance against the government in Beijing and the government of Hong Kong.

It is known about Peng as a person that he previously worked as a military trainer in the eastern Chinese province of Jinan. In 2019, he was named Major General. That year he also led an exercise of the Mountain Eagles, an elite counter-terrorism unit. With the army of Kyrgyzstan, the Mountain Eagles then practiced counter-terrorism in Ürümqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

Normally, Peng would not be appointed until this fall, when the Communist Party’s cards will be shuffled again at the 20th Party Congress. His appointment now probably has to do with the elections for a new supreme leader in Hong Kong, which are scheduled for March. Certainly then China does not want any disturbances in the city.

Also read this article: Hong Kong chooses, but free is different

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