Members of China's paramilitary People's Armed Police have marched and practised crowd control tactics at a sports complex in Shenzhen across from Hong Kong, in what some interpreted as a threat against pro-democracy protesters in the semi autonomous territory.
The sound of marching boots and synchronised shouts echoed from the grounds. Officers in green camouflage stood guard at closed entrances. A stadium security guard said "it wasn't clear" when the paramilitary police would leave the grounds.
Chinese state media have only said that the Shenzhen exercises were planned earlier and were not directly related to the unrest in Hong Kong, though they came shortly after the central government in Beijing said the protests were beginning to show the "sprouts of terrorism."
From a distance, police could be seen conducting drills in military fatigues, using shields, poles and other riot-control gear. In one exercise, two groups marched in formation with those in front raising shields as if to protect themselves from projectiles. Others behind held red flags and banners. The words "the law" and "prosecuted" could be seen on one.
Outside, dozens of armoured carriers and trucks sat in the parking lot of the Shenzhen Bay Stadium, close to a bridge linking mainland China to Hong Kong.
Weeks of protests in Hong Kong have been marked by increasing violence and a shutdown of the Hong Kong airport earlier this week. The demonstrators are demanding expanded political rights and the scrapping of legislation that could have seen criminal suspects sent to mainland China.
A weekend of protests is expected to begin Friday night with a university student-led "power to the people" rally in Chater Garden, a public square in the financial district.
A pro-democracy march is planned for Saturday along with a separate pro-government "Save Hong Kong" rally, ahead of a major pro-democracy rally called for Sunday. Police have denied permission for the march on Sunday, but protesters have ignored such denials in the past.
China has pressured foreign and Hong Kong companies to support the ruling Communist Party's position against the protesters.
The CEO of Cathay Pacific Airways, one of Hong Kong's most prominent companies, resigned Friday following pressure by Beijing on the carrier over participation by some of its employees in the anti-government protests.
On Monday, Hogg threatened employees with "disciplinary consequences" if they took part in "illegal protests.'