The Reuters news agency said on Monday that several Asian and Western envoys have told it that Beijing has already moved elements of the People’s Armed Police (PAP) into Hong Kong.

There has been speculation that Beijing could decide to use the mainland’s paramilitary anti-riot and internal security force to quell the SAR’s unrest, rather than opting for the People’s Liberation Army.

Reuters said the deployment of mainland security forces in Hong Kong was quietly more than doubled last month – even though the well-publicised troop movements into the SAR were described by state media as a routine rotation.

The news agency said the diplomats told it they are certain the late-August deployment was not a rotation at all, but a reinforcement, and that members of the PAP – which is not under the PLA’s control – were among the new arrivals.

Three of the envoys told Reuters the number of military personnel in Hong Kong has more than doubled since the anti-government protests began in June. They put the number at 3,000 to 5,000 in the months before the reinforcement, and estimated it is now between 10,000 to 12,000.

The reinforcement includes equipment tailor-made for the quelling of urban violence, including water cannon vehicles and trucks used to lay barbed wire barricades, the news report said.

Reuters said it sought confirmation of the move from Ministry of National Defence, the State Council Information Office, and the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, but none of them responded to its questions.

The office of Chief Executive Carrie Lam and the PLA garrison in Hong Kong did not respond either, Reuters said, but a spokesperson for the Hong Kong police said the force is “capable of maintaining law and order and determined to restore public safety.”