The French frigate Vendémiaire in Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour during a port call last month. Photo: EPA

The People’s Liberation Army’s garrison in Hong Kong had a drill with the visiting French Navy frigate Vendémiaire on Saturday to “compare notes” on maritime deployment, logistical support and humanitarian rescues, Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television reported.

The exercise was held in waters about 20 nautical miles off Hong Kong during which marines from both militaries used English in their communications.

The 2,600-ton, diesel propelled Vendémiaire, charged with patrolling France’s overseas territories, sailed into Hong Kong waters for a goodwill call last month, it’s second visit to the city, and was opened to military aficionados in a community exchange program when it docked at a pier in Kennedy Town. Its bridge was also opened to the public.

Among the PLA warships involved in the drill was the Qinzhou, a Type 056 corvette deployed in Hong Kong’s Stonecutter’s naval base primarily suited for mid-range missions and littoral duties.

Officials of the French and Chinese navies on board the Vendémiaire. Photo: WeChat via PLA
French admirals and officials on board the PLA corvette Qinzhou. Photo: WeChat via PLA

It was not the first time the PLA’s Hong Kong garrison has had a joint drill with a foreign military. In November 2016 an undisclosed number of troops from the garrison were dispatched to Malaysia for an exercise there.

The former British colony of Hong Kong is now a special administrative region under Beijing’s sovereignty and the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s constitutional document, says the city’s defense and diplomacy fall in the hands of the central authorities.

The PLA garrison in the SAR used to stay low-key, but has started to flex its muscles in response to a surge of secessionism, in particular among the city’s youngsters who seek to break ranks with Beijing amid the latter’s perceived strangling of Hongkongers’ rights and freedoms.

Locally, the garrison has had a slew of high-profile war games involving laying siege to terrorist camps as well as cracking down on riots in urban settings.

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