Massive protests in Hong Kong in June and dogged clashes between protesters and armed police appeared to have little impact on annual open days held at three People’s Liberation Army garrisons, which continued as usual last weekend.
Shek Kong, the largest of the three PLA garrisons in Hong Kong, was opened to the public from 9am to 3pm on June 29. Located near Kam Tin and Pat Heung in the New Territories, the camp saw patrols with Gurkhas soldiers during the British colonial era before the city’s 1997 handover from the British to the Chinese government.
In June 2012, a military parade was staged at Shek Kong barracks for the then Chinese President Hu Jintao.
A week ago, about 30,000 people received free tickets at certain registration points with their ID cards. Visitors didn’t need to show ID at the base’s entrances but were required to pass through a metal detector and open their bags for a security check.
Heavy rain meant the 10am flag-raising ceremony in Shek Kong was postponed for 30 minutes. It was followed by a one-and-a-half-hour military show, with a military band, combat and bayonet drill, flying and driving techniques, plus a show of physical training. PLA troops also performed an anti-terrorist act with air guns and blanks.
After, visitors took pictures in front of armored vehicles and military helicopters. Some tried to hold the firearms – hand-guns, machine guns and anti-tank rocket launchers.
The biggest billboard in the camp showed a picture of Xi Jinping, chairman of the Central Military Commission and Chinese President, with the slogan “have soul, have skill, have blood and have morality”, which was first announced by Xi in 2014.
One of the dormitories was opened to the public. Every closet contains Xi’s books. China Sport Daily, Guangming Ribao and Chinese versions of Global Times were found on a newspaper stand. In a comic hanging on a wall, soldiers were reminded to properly handle magazines and newspapers they read, to remain cautious when talking on the phone.
Visitors could get some rice and Chinese buns for lunch and souvenirs such as a blue hat, a paper-knife, a HKSAR flag and the national flag.
Meanwhile, the PLA opened other barracks in San Wai in the New Territories and Stonecutters Island in Kowloon to the public on June 30 and July 1, respectively.
On Monday afternoon, the PLA announced it had finished a military drill on June 26. The announcement fueled rumors on July 2 that Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had asked the PLA in Hong Kong to help guard a port in Central, which was given for military use from June 29, and to suppress protesters opposed to the extradition law changes. The Hong Kong government denied the rumors.
The PLA announcement came before protesters stormed the Legco building for three hours late on July 1, which was the 22nd anniversary of the 1997 handover. The PLA in Hong Kong did not take any action.
On Wednesday, Liu Xiaoming, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the United Kingdom, told the media the PLA’s mission was to fight against foreign enemies and protect Hong Kong. He said Beijing had full confidence in Hong Kong’s SAR government and believed the Hong Kong police could handle recent protests.