China’s head of public security called for stronger cooperation with Hong Kong’s police on Friday, according to state media, as pro-democracy protesters vowed to hold another massive rally over the weekend.
In a meeting with Hong Kong police chief Tang Ping-keung, Chinese public security minister Zhao Kezhi said he hoped to “strengthen cooperation” and “jointly safeguard national security and the social stability of Hong Kong.”
“The central government and public security ministry will always be a strong backup force for the Hong Kong police force,” he told Tang in Beijing, according to a readout by the official news site of China’s public security ministry.
Zhao’s remarks come as Hong Kong has been battered by six months of often violent protests pushing for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability in the most stark challenge the city has presented to Beijing since its 1997 handover.
The international finance hub has been ruled by a unique system guaranteeing greater freedoms than on the mainland — rights protesters say are being steadily eroded by Beijing.
The protests are also backlit by fears Beijing may send in troops to squash the movement.
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has a permanent garrison based in Hong Kong which, under city law, can be deployed if the local government requests help to maintain social order.
At Friday’s meeting, Tang thanked China’s public security bureau for its “vigorous support and help” and told Zhao that the city’s police force would “throw all of its energy” into stopping violence and unrest in Hong Kong.
The force’s reputation has suffered during the protests, with many accusing officers of brutality.
A new poll released on Friday by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Programme, which has tracked public sentiment for years, showed new record disapproval for the force with 40 percent of respondents now giving it the lowest mark of zero.
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