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Chinese paramilitary forces conduct exercises near HK

SHENZHEN, CHINA/HONG KONG: Hundreds of members of China's People's Armed Police (PAP) could be seen conducting exercises yesterday at a sports stadium in Shenzhen, as the US State Department expressed concern that they could be deployed across the border in Hong Kong to break up protests wracking the city.

But Western and Asian diplomats in Hong Kong said Beijing has little appetite for rolling the PAP or the People's Liberation Army onto Hong Kong's streets.

Yesterday, men in fatigues could be seen in a stadium and shouts and whistles could be heard by a Reuters journalist.

Parking spaces at the stadium were filled with more than 100 dark-painted paramilitary vehicles, including troop trucks, armoured personnel carriers, buses and jeeps.

At least three were armoured wheel-loaders, and two vehicles carried water cannons.

"This is the first time I've seen such a large-scale meeting," said Ms Yang Ying, a receptionist at a wellness centre inside the stadium's retail complex.

"There have been exercises in the past, but usually they involve traffic police," she added.

Troops marched in and out of the Shenzhen stadium, some in fatigues, some in black T-shirts and camouflage trousers.

The floor of an indoor area visible through an open gate was lined with mats and rucksacks.

Chinese state media have made several mentions of exercises in Shenzhen.

Still, diplomats in Hong Kong said they believe Chinese leadership is well aware that moving mainland forces into Hong Kong would shatter international faith in the "one country, two systems" model at the heart of Hong Kong's role as a global financial hub, and would swiftly lead to sanctions. - REUTERS

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