Satellite photographs taken close to mainland China’s border with Hong Kong appear to show amassed military vehicles being held inside a football stadium.
Chinese security forces have been gathering in the city of Shenzhen in recent days, an apparent show of force as mass protests continue to roil Hong Kong.
The protest movement is now in its tenth week. On Monday and Tuesday, activists forced Hong Kong’s international airport to shut down on two consecutive days.
The images, published by The Associated Press, show more than 100 vehicles, which appear to be large trucks, gathered in the soccer stadium at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. The pictures were taken on Monday, the AP said.
The images come 24 hours after the Global Times, China’s state-run tabloid newspaper, published a compilation of footage showing the military trucks assembling in Shenzhen “in advance of apparent large-scale exercises.”
Video showed numerous armored personnel carriers, trucks, and other vehicles belonging to the Chinese People’s Armed Police Force, a paramilitary force responsible for riot control and counterterrorism, parading through the streets of Shenzhen.
The Global Times also noted in its report that 12,000 police officers, tanks, helicopters, and amphibious vehicles gathered in Shenzhen on August 6 for what appeared to be anti-riot drills.
Adam Ni, a researcher on Chinese foreign and security policy at the Australian National University, said on Twitter that the military display was a brazen warning to Hong Kong of China’s combat readiness.
“China is stepping up its signalling, and the message that it wants to convey is pretty clear: if the protests escalate further, Chinese armed forces will intervene…” Ni wrote in a Twitter thread alongside videos of the vehicles gathering.
The growing military presence being readied in Shenzhen comes in a week when protesters twice forced Hong Kong International Airport to shut down, cancelling hundreds of flights in the process.
Protesters overwhelmed the departure halls of the airport on both Monday and Tuesday, eventually leading to violent clashes with police late on Tuesday evening.
Hong Kongers have been protesting for over two months in a series of demonstrations which began as a movement against a proposed bill that would have allowed the extradition of people from Hong Kong to mainland China.
Many in Hong Kong thought the bill was a breach of the “one country, two systems” agreement forged when Britain returned Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997.
The protests have since morphed into a series of demonstrations against what many see as the infringement of democracy in Hong Kong, and against police brutality seen during the protests.