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Dozens of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Hong Kong Garrison soldiers, in their casual clothes, Saturday afternoon cleaned up the mess on the road left by rioters nearby the Hong Kong Baptist University. Such social work was applauded by local residents passing by, and analysts said the cleaning up activity is in line with related laws. 

Those soldiers dismantled road barricades, removed bricks at Renfre Road in front of PLA’s Kowloon East Barracks. After the officers cleaned up the mess and returned to the barracks, some reporters still gathered outside, while dozens of riot police were a few hundred meters away from the garrison, the Global Times reporters saw. 

Sources close to the PLA told the Global Times that there is no need to read too much into the clean-up efforts by the soldiers as such activities outside the camp only requires the permission of their commander instead of higher level command. 

Also notably the soldiers did not wear uniforms and the barricades outside their camp indeed affected normal activities of the soldiers, according to the sources. And the efforts took place during their break on Saturday. 

“Such details show the Hong Kong PLA Garrison does not want to draw extra attention and wants to lower the sensitivity associated with their PLA Hong Kong Garrison identity,” the sources said.

The efforts on Saturday cannot be interpreted as any hint of what the PLA Hong Kong Garrison will or will not do next, the source said.

A PLA officer was looking down from a building inside the garrison as reporters waited outside. When a Hong Kong reporter asked one officer what was going on, he responded in a firm voice saying that “Our target is Hong Kong returning to stability,” a video footage shows. He also asked the journalist to do something meaningful. 

Such social work is in line with related laws, analysts said. They also called for the PLA to take part in other activities in accordance with the laws if needed. 

Hong Kong has been engulfed in escalated violence as rioters blocked the roads, paralyzed traffic, threw Molotov cocktails and attacked ordinary people who disagree with them. 

“All of us feel happy and touched today. We felt painful in the past few days seeing the situation worsened, but the PLA Garrison made us relieved,” said Chen Qingzhen, a local resident. “I hope they can come out often these days in this perfect way of cleaning trashes,” she said.   

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday night urged an end to violence and chaos in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), which he said is the most pressing task for the city, in his latest remarks that have been seen as a strong support for tougher actions against violent criminals.  

The clean-up work released a signal that the PLA troops stationed in Hong Kong have a mission to restore the social order of the city, Li Xiaobing, an expert on Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, from Nankai University in Tianjin, told the Global Times on Saturday.

“It was reasonable and legal, because these roadblocks not only affected the lives of ordinary people, but also affected traffic around the military camp,” he said, noting that it also fully demonstrates that the officers care for the people of Hong Kong and play an active role in strengthening people’s confidence in the city’s future.