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Satellite Photo Shows China's Military Buildup in Response to Hong Kong Protests

This satellite image, made available by Maxar Technologies, shows military and security vehicles parked in the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center in Shenzhen, China on August 12, 2019 (issued August 14, 2019). According to media reports, military and security vehicles from the People's Armed Police have gathered in Shenzhen, a city just outside of Hong Kong. (Image credit: SATELLITE IMAGE ©2019 MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES/HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

China's military buildup in response to over 10 weeks of escalating protests in Hong Kong can now been seen from space. 

This WorldView-1 satellite image, taken Monday (Aug. 12) and released yesterday by Maxar Technologies, shows dozens of reported Chinese paramilitary vehicles inside the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center, which is located just outside of Hong Kong. 

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WorldView-1 is a commercial satellite owned by the Maxar company DigitalGlobe that launched in 2007 and is designed to observe and image Earth. The satellite bus and camera were built by Ball Aerospace. 

DigitalGlobe has launched four WorldView satellites in all (WorldView-4 failed earlier this year) to observe Earth from space, with a new satellite constellation (called WorldView Legion) in the works. The first WorldView Legion satellites will launch in 2021 on SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets, Maxar has said.

According to Business Insider, the vehicles in this satellite photo belong to the Chinese People's Armed Police Force, a paramilitary police force focused on riot control and counterterrorism. A multitude of videos have surfaced on twitter showing large numbers of these military vehicles entering the city of Shenzhen. The New York Times also reported that 12,000 police officers, tanks, helicopters and amphibious vehicles had gathered in Shenzhen. 

The Chinese state tabloid tweeted a compilation, referred to by Business Insider as a propaganda film, of the trucks assembling "in advance of apparent large-scale exercises." But experts say that these military displays are part of a larger strategy to intimidate the Chinese population and deter protest, and it is unlikely that the Chinese government will intervene right now, according to Business Insider. 

The protests in Hong Kong began over 10 weeks ago in response to the proposed extradition bill, which would allow local authorities to detain and extradite people to mainland China and Taiwan (places that Hong Kong does not currently have extradition agreements with). The demonstrations have since expanded and protestors are now fighting for democracy and accountability for police action, according to CNN

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Chelsea Gohd

Chelsea Gohd joined as an intern in the summer of 2018 and returned as a Staff Writer in 2019. After receiving a B.S. in Public Health, she worked as a science communicator at the American Museum of Natural History. Chelsea has written for publications including Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine, Live Science, All That is Interesting, AMNH Microbe Mondays blog, The Daily Targum and Roaring Earth. When not writing, reading or following the latest space and science discoveries, Chelsea is writing music, singing, playing guitar and performing with her band Foxanne (@foxannemusic). You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd.