Crowds head for PLA open days, but take along their face masks

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 May, 2009, 12:00am

The threat of flu did not stop enthusiastic military fans from visiting the People's Liberation Army garrisons yesterday.

More than a thousand queued outside the Stonecutters Island naval base an hour before the garrison opened at 10.30am.

Many visitors said the threat of flu would not stop them from visiting, as the garrison area was spacious and they had carried face masks and disinfectants with them.

'I will take extra care of personal hygiene, wash hands more frequently and try to stay away from crowds,' one visitor said.

Yesterday marked the 17th time PLA bases in the city had opened for public visits. About 310,000 people have visited the garrisons so far this weekend.

The naval base on Stonecutters Island opened yesterday morning while San Wai barracks in Fanling opened for the first time in the afternoon.

The air base in Shek Kong will open tomorrow. A spokesman for the PLA said the arrangement would allow more people to visit the garrisons, and some 32,000 people were expected to visit the three bases.

About 21,000 free passes to the three garrisons were snapped up within hours last week, and holders were rewarded with souvenir gifts, a lunchbox and a bottle of water when they visited the garrisons.

A 20-minute anti-terrorist drill involving gunfights and culminating in an assault on a 'terrorist' hideout to rescue hostages was one of the numerous activities staged yesterday.

Thousands of parents, children and elderly were also treated to kung fu shows, military band performances and various military themed exhibitions. Children were thrilled to get a closer look at weapons, warships and armoured vehicles. As is usual on opening days, visitors were also allowed to see soldiers' living quarters and the troops supplied visitors with snacks they had made.

Parents said they hoped the visit would give their children a look at how tough and disciplined PLA soldiers were.

The barracks open days coincide with a six-day visit by the mainland's Yuanwang-6 communications vessel - equipped with hi-tech antennas that can transmit signals within a 400,000km radius of the Earth. The ship helped monitor the Shenzhou VII spacecraft as astronauts took their first space walk in September last year.

Its visit sparked a host of activities in the city to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, which falls on October 1.