Smooth sailing

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 August, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 August, 1997, 12:00am

It was business as usual as 1,200 American sailors hit the streets of the SAR yesterday, on the United States navy's first break in Hong Kong since the handover.

The only difference was that the shore patrols, who keep an eye out for any unruly behaviour in the bars of Wan Chai and elsewhere, were dressed in civilian clothes instead of uniforms - in an apparent gesture towards Chinese sensitivities.

And Vice-Admiral Natter, the commander of the visiting vessels, found himself the focus of unprecedented media interest. He was asked to comment on Sino-US relations, while even the menu for his lunch with PLA Garrison Commander Lieutenant-General Liu Zhenwu became the subject of scrutiny.

From an objective point of view, the visit scarcely warranted such attention. US warships have been visiting other Chinese cities for many years, and it would only have been remarkable if Hong Kong had been treated any differently.

Scarcely a month after the transfer of sovereignty, it is understandable that every sign of life continuing as it did before should attract such interest - both within the SAR and from a still sceptical world. But the real confirmation that it is life as normal in post-handover Hong Kong will be when such events become so unremarkable as to pass almost unnoticed.