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With buildup of forces on border, China displays waning tolerance for Hong Kong protests

Chinese military exercises Thursday near the border with Hong Kong reiterated the country’s waning patience with months of pro-democracy demonstrations, some turning violent. Beijing officials have referred to the protests as “terrorism,” and even some Hong Kong residents have grown weary of them -- but more are planned for the upcoming weekend. Special correspondent Bruce Harrison reports.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    In Hong Kong today, calm largely prevailed. But the city braced for more large protests this weekend, as Beijing delivered more harsh rhetoric. Chinese security forces mustered just across Hong Kong's border, and President Trump inserted himself into the tense standoff.

    Special correspondent Bruce Harrison reports now from Hong Kong.

  • Bruce Harrison:

    Soldiers marched amid a sea of paramilitary vehicles parked near the border, dividing China from Hong Kong. Chinese military exercises today — a reminder of Beijing's thinning patience with its territory. It's another warning against protests engulfing Hong Kong which target Beijing's efforts to whittle away at Hong Kong's autonomy.

    And today, the rhetoric from top Chinese officials again matched the military flex.

  • Liu Xiaoming:

    Their moves are severe and violent offences, and already show signs of terrorism.

  • Bruce Harrison:

    But Hong Kongers are preparing for another weekend of demonstrations, which have veered into violent clashes with Hong Kong police. Legal experts are warning Hong Kong's government may also call on Beijing's army garrison stationed in Hong Kong to intervene.

  • David Lampton:

    If China commits to use force, I presume it will use the force necessary to quell things and one could —

  • Bruce Harrison:

    David Lampton is a research fellow at Stanford University's Asia Pacific Research Center.

  • David Lampton:

    So, I think Beijing has not decided whether or not to use force, hopes not to, but in the end, if it's that or control from the viewpoint of Beijing, I have little doubt they would use the force they think necessary to quickly subdue it.

  • Bruce Harrison:

    Today, President Trump expressed confidence that Chinese President Xi Jinping would find a solution.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I really would like to see China in a humane way solve the problem in Hong Kong, humanely solve the problem in the Hong Kong, and I think they can do it very quickly. I said yesterday, I really have a lot of confidence in President Xi. I know that they sat down with their representatives. I have no doubt he would solve that problem quickly.

  • Bruce Harrison:

    But hopes for a dialogue may be just that.

  • David Lampton:

    The idea of Xi talking to protesters probably from a Chinese pointed of view is even a worse idea, because the Chinese have some experience of that in 1989 when the then-Premier Li Peng talked to the protesters. One of the protesters, the lead one talking with him came in in pajama, humiliated the premier, and that probably even accelerated the move on the protesters in Tiananmen.

  • Bruce Harrison:

    As the standoff between China's mainland and Hong Kong stiffens, many in Beijing feel it's only a matter of time before their government cracks down.

  • Zheng Zhihua (through translator):

    The Chinese national government will not allow you to do this, causing chaos like this. You can tell people about your complaints, but if you use these extreme means, then in the future, you'll run into trouble.

  • Bruce Harrison:

    Some Hong Kongers are growing weary of the chaos, too.

  • Tsui Che (through translator):

    What are the core values of Hong Kong? They are democracy, freedom, fairness and justice. But is it democracy for the rioters to beat me if I don't agree with what they say?

  • Bruce Harrison:

    And the inconveniences, as some residents call them, will almost certainly continue this weekend.

    A number of demonstrations are planned on Friday and Saturday, including rallies of students and teachers. But it's often been the marches through Hong Kong's streets that descend into violence between police and protestors. And another long march is scheduled for Sunday, testing the patience of the local government and Beijing.

    For the "PBS NewsHour", I'm Bruce Harrison, in Hong Kong.

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