PLA showcases latest weaponry
The People's Liberation Army had a chance to display its latest military hardware when it welcomed 15,000 members of the public to its Ngong Shuen Chau naval base on Stonecutters Island yesterday.
While the event to mark the 85th anniversary of the PLA's foundation had many of the trappings of previous open days - including marches, military music and martial arts shows - there was also new weaponry on display.
The public saw a range of landing craft, armoured vehicles and helicopters, while the new type 95-1 assault rifle was on show in Hong Kong for the first time.
Visitors were able to board ships and sit on military motorcycles under the supervision of PLA soldiers. But those in search of a souvenir were given strict warning against collecting used bullet cartridges after a shooting display by the troops.
Victor Man Kwun-ho, 15, who last visited the barracks when he was 10, enjoyed the performances and the exhibition of military equipment.
'The weapons seem to be more advanced [than on my last visit],' the teenager said.
Ma Chak-pang, 58, who had never been to a PLA open day, thought the performances were commendable and the soldiers were very polite and friendly. 'They need to go through a lot of training everyday,' Ma said. The PLA is responsible for Hong Kong's defence under the Basic Law and is perhaps the most high-profile symbol of Beijing's presence in the city. However, the mainland soldiers do not interfere in local affairs and traditionally maintain a low profile.
They had a rare moment in the limelight when President Hu Jintao visited the city late last month to mark the 15th anniversary of the handover.
One of his first duties was to review a military parade at the Shek Kong barracks.
The PLA open days have become a regular event in recent years, with 24 events held so far at bases for the navy and air force, as well as army barracks. Almost 500,000 people have visited the events.
The number of PLA soldiers, sailors and airmen based in Hong Kong. They are confined to 18 PLA barracks across the city