Women flock to PLA open day

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 March, 2010, 12:00am

The People's Liberation Army base at Stonecutters Island played host yesterday to thousands of mainly female visitors from Guangdong on the eve of the centennial anniversary of International Women's Day.

About 6,000 visitors got a glimpse of military life, from the mundane to the ceremonial, on the compound. In sleeping quarters, sailors patiently demonstrated, over and over again, their meticulous methods of bed-making, folding their comforters into perfectly creased, symmetrical 'tofu rolls'. Guests sampled military-made pastries and desserts while cooks demonstrated their food-carving skills, deftly turning watermelons and carrots into flowers and birds.

Guests also got the chance to check out the latest military hardware. Women posed for pictures, straining under the weight of the long-range rifles on display. Soldiers smiled and propped up babies on motorcycles as parents snapped away with cameras.

There was no shortage of pomp and circumstance - there was the ceremonial flag-raising, the military band played patriotic marches; the honour guard, clad in dress uniforms of green, white and blue, marched in symbolic formations of 'CHN' and 'HK', and the audience clapped enthusiastically as soldiers dressed in black shirts and camouflage did martial arts and fight demonstrations.

The PLA showed off its artistic side as well, featuring soldiers in an hour-long song and dance performance.

The event was organised at the request of Guangdong province in honour of the annual International Women's Day, which celebrates its 100th anniversary tomorrow.

Guests arrived via tour buses from the mainland. Yesterday's event was not open to Hong Kong residents but the PLA expects to hold an event for locals some time this year.

The PLA has been stationed in Hong Kong since the 1997 handover and has since opened its barracks to the public 18 times, in an effort to promote Hong Kong's understanding and trust of the troops here. An estimated 350,000 Hong Kong residents have visited PLA facilities during that time.