PLA was prepared for crises in HK

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 June, 2007, 12:00am

Garrison chief says army was alert to risks during Sars

The People's Liberation Army in Hong Kong made 'serious preparations' to act during the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak and exchanged intelligence with the city's police on the violence-hit World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting in 2005, the garrison's commander disclosed yesterday.

At a news conference marking the 10th anniversary of the garrison's presence in Hong Kong, Lieutenant-General Wang Jitang cited the two incidents as examples of how the garrison had been ready to protect the city's stability since the handover.

Asked if there had been any plans to deploy troops during tense moments, including the mass street protests of July 2003 and former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa's sudden resignation in March 2005, General Wang did not give a direct answer.

'Whenever anything happens in Hong Kong, we always keep a close eye on it,' was all he would say.

'During the Sars outbreak, we made serious preparation [for deploying troops],' he said. 'During the World Trade Organisation's ministerial meeting we also exchanged information and communicated with the Hong Kong police on the situation.'

Violence erupted near the Convention and Exhibition Centre during the meeting on December 17, 2005, leaving 175 people injured - 64 of them police officers.

Asked if the PLA would react if Hong Kong became the target of a terrorist attack or was embroiled in a cross-strait military standoff, he would say only that as the garrison was responsible for Hong Kong's defence it would heed any such matters and was well prepared for them.

Political commissar Major-General Zhang Rucheng said the garrison had strictly adhered to the Basic Law and Garrison Law and would continue to do so.

He said there had been only one disciplinary case among about 6,000 PLA troops based in Hong Kong, compared with about 70 cases a year for the former British garrison.

'The only case that happened was when a cadre and his family went to Disneyland and took away a HK$35 key ring without paying. We closely co-operated with the judiciary and we also seriously handled it internally afterwards,' General Zhang said.

The PLA has been stepping up its visibility by organising open days and holding a military parade in 2004.

These events, General Wang said, were a means to enhance Hong Kong people's understanding of the PLA.

While the public's support for the PLA had increased, he said the garrison would continue stepping up efforts to enhance communication with the public.

A police spokesman declined to confirm whether the force had sought the PLA's assistance during the Sars outbreak or exchanged information with the PLA on the WTO's ministerial meeting.