Dozens of PLA soldiers suddenly appeared without warning on the streets of Kowloon Tong on Saturday afternoon, running around with buckets and picking up bricks that had been scattered all over the place by protesters since Wednesday.
The soldiers, who were mostly on Renfrew Road, also dismantled barricades, working with their bare hands as they shouted to each other in Mandarin.
It was the first time that soldiers had been seen on the SAR's streets since the anti-government protests erupted in June.
Dressed in shorts and T-shirts with a Chinese flag on the sleeves, the troops emptied their red buckets of bricks at the side of the road, or worked in small teams to simply toss the debris out of the way at lightning speed.
A man with the soldiers told reporters to stop asking him questions and to put down their equipment and help with the clearance. The army had also sent its own camera operators out to film the troops at work.
Members of the public were also joining in with the unexpected clean-up operation, with some young children also doing their best to assist the soldiers.
Some people clapped and cheered the soldiers and said they appreciated their help.
"They came out by themselves. It's just voluntary and I very much appreciate them. They are participating as members of Hong Kong [society]," one woman said.
After around half an hour, many of the soldiers jogged back to their barracks in Kowloon Tong, some still clutching brooms, and the gates were closed behind them.
The SAR government did not make any announcement of such a move by the military.
According to Article 14 of the Garrison Law, the PLA must not interfere in local affairs, but troops can be called out to help with disaster relief or maintaining public order if requested by the Hong Kong government. The central government would have to approve the request and the troops would have to return to barracks immediately upon completion of the tasks.
PLA troops had been sent out to country parks in October last year to help clear trees felled during the onslaught on Super Typhoon Mangkhut. The SAR government said at the time that it did not request help from the PLA, and that the soldiers were simply taking part in voluntary community service.
Last updated: 2019-11-16 HKT 17:32
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