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Does Hong Kong’s seizure of armoured vehicles give Beijing access to Singapore’s military secrets?

The ongoing dispute over the interception of nine Singaporean military vehicles in Hong Kong has given the mainland a chance to access the vehicles’ secrets, according to a military observer.

Macau-based military expert Antony Wong Dong said the detained vehicles are AV-81s, the most advanced military vehicles Singapore has.

“I’m pretty sure experts with the People’s Liberation Army’s 617 Factory in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, and the China North Vehicle Research Institute based in Beijing have already examined the nine armoured vehicles stuck in Hong Kong,” Wong said, adding that the vehicles were of an advanced type in Asia.

The 617 Factory is the largest manufacturer of tanks in China and the China North Vehicle Research Institute, formerly the 201 Institute, is the leading developer of tanks on the mainland.

“Military experts may have access to both the software and hardware of the military communications system, which is considered top secret,” Wong said. “As a result, the Singaporean military may have to change the entire communications system in the worst case scenario.”

China lodges protest with Singapore after military vehicles seized by Hong Kong customs

The veteran PLA watcher said such an interception of vehicles in Hong Kong might have involved several departments including the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the PLA and should have been decided by a top leader. It had likely dealt a severe blow to relations between Beijing and Singapore, at least in the military aspect, he said.

According to a report by the FactWire news agency on Saturday, the cargo ship carrying the vehicles had set sail from Taiwan but docked in Xiamen en route to Hong Kong, where the armoured personnel carriers were seized.

Quoting customs sources, FactWire said that before the ship arrived in the city, mainland law enforcers informed their Hong Kong counterparts that the vessel carried undeclared military materials, which did not have an approval notice.

Is Beijing trying to discourage Singapore-Taiwan relations by having Hong Kong seize armoured vehicles?

Wong said such an operation could trigger hostile sentiments in other countries with interests in the contested waters of the South China Sea, such as the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

“In this sense, mainland China has seemingly played a petty trick, rather than boasting strategic wisdom,” Wong said. “I’ve learned that the top Singaporean leaders were extremely shocked and surprised by the seizure operation.”