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Chinese soldiers arrive with brooms to clean up the protest area at Hong Kong Baptist University in Hong Kong today. (Television Broadcasts Limited Hong Kong via AP)

In Hong Kong on Saturday, the scene above is an eerie reminder that mainland Chinese troops are looming nearby, ready to crush dissent or even take control.

Driving the news: Chinese army troops stationed in the semiautonomous territory emerged from nearby barracks to clear streets that protesters clogged with debris to slow down police, AP reports.

  • Dozens of People’s Liberation Army soldiers, dressed in black shorts and olive drab T-shirts, helped street cleaners pick up paving stones, rocks and other obstacles that had stopped traffic.

Why it matters: The soldiers, jogging in formation, carrying brooms and singing in cadence, were a rare sight on the streets of the city.

  • China maintains a garrison of about 10,000 soldiers, but they can’t operationally deploy without a request from the Hong Kong government.

The bottom line: Today, they're picking up bricks. Tomorrow, it could be people.

Chinese soldiers pick up bricks scattered by protesters at Hong Kong Baptist University. (Television Broadcasts Limited Hong Kong via AP)

Go deeper:

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Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day — U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record.
  2. Politics: States beg for Warp Speed billions.
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases.
  4. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.

Technical glitch in Facebook's ad tools creates political firestorm

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: SOPA Images / Contributor

Facebook said late Thursday that a mix of "technical problems" and confusion among advertisers around its new political ad ban rules caused issues affecting ad campaigns of both parties.

Why it matters: A report out Thursday morning suggested the ad tools were causing campaign ads, even those that adhered to Facebook's new rules, to be paused. Very quickly, political campaigners began asserting the tech giant was enforcing policies in a way that was biased against their campaigns.

8 hours ago - Health

States beg for Warp Speed billions

A COVID-19 drive-thru testing center yesterday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Photo: David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP

Operation Warp Speed has an Achilles' heel: States need billions to distribute vaccines — and many say they don't have the cash.

Why it matters: The first emergency use authorization could come as soon as next month, but vaccines require funding for workers, shipping and handling, and for reserving spaces for vaccination sites.