Now that Xi Jinping’s Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has taken Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms – by imposing its national security laws on the province – will it be sending in its own security forces to finish the job of subjugating Hong Kong?
If it does, the CCP will likely deploy the feared People’s Armed Police (PAP) – China’s top internal security force – rather than the Hong Kong Police, or People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Some experts believe the PAP is secretly already inside Hong Kong – prepared to strike.
But what exactly is the PAP? While not part of the Ministry of Public Security, or the PLA, it is a national paramilitary “gendarmerie” arm of the Chinese military reporting to the Central Military Commission. Since the 2018 reform – the PAP also reports to the CCP. PAP officers wear Army green uniforms instead of the People’s Police blue.
Formed in 1982, with an estimated strength of 1.5 million, the modernized PAP is primarily responsible for internal security, riot control, antiterrorism, and law enforcement. It has a secondary role of providing rear area support to the PLA.
The PAP was used to ruthlessly suppress disturbances in “restive” mainland regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet.
China’s Other Army: The People’s Armed Police in an Era of Reform – the 2019 report by Joel Wuthnow published by the US National Defense University, provides many details on the PAP.
While mostly composed of paramilitary police troops, the PAP also uses armored personnel carriers, bulldozers, barbed-wire laying trucks, and helicopters. In 2018 the China Coast Guard was also transferred to, and consolidated with, the PAP.
The PAP also has several Special Police Units including the ‘Snow Wolf’ and ‘Snow Leopard’ Commando Units for more specialized missions.
Following the 2018 reform, the PAP is now organized into two corps-sized ‘Mobile Contingents,’ each led by a Major General. The 1st Mobile Contingent is based in Shijiazhuang, Hebei, south of Beijing. It is responsible for northern and central China, including the capital.
The 2nd Mobile Contingent is headquartered in Fuzhou, with units concentrated in Fujian and surrounding provinces along the coast. It is responsible for eastern and southern China, ostensibly including Hong Kong.
In a March 2020 Reuters report, the Chinese Defence Ministry denied the PAP was stationed in Hong Kong. A Hong Kong police spokesman also told the news service they “stress that there is no such visit or observation by any members of the mainland law enforcement agencies”.
Several foreign envoys, however, told Reuters to dispute this as untrue. They estimated that since the Hong Kong protest began in mid-2019, the CCP has secretly increased the PAP presence in Hong Kong to about 4,000 personnel – far higher than previously believed.
According to these same diplomats, the PAP units are reportedly located discreetly on PLA bases at Stonecutters Island and Stanley on southern Hong Kong island, where they stage frequent anti-riot drills separately from the PLA.
PAP officers have reportedly also been seen joining PLA officers to “observe” protests, alongside Hong Kong Police, to prepare themselves for future employment.
Now that the last remaining vestiges of legal constraint have been removed from the CCP’s intervention in Hong Kong, we should keep a close watch on the PAP. It will likely spearhead any CCP crackdown to finally subjugate the province.