Live-fire PLA drills near Hong Kong are common and safe, says expert
Drills near Hong Kong common and not connected to territorial disputes, public assured
PLA military exercises held near Hong Kong are not uncommon, with an average of 10 drills conducted every year, some of which include shooting practice, a government aviation source said.
He added that there was no need to warn the public about the drills in advance because it may create unnecessary panic.
Lantau residents this week reported hearing unusual noises every morning, with one resident saying the sound made her windows rattle.
"These drills have been taking place even before the 1997 handover," said the source.
He said fighter jets from the PLA's Guangzhou and Hainan Island bases usually fly into Hong Kong's airspace about 10 times a year as part of regular drills, which are not triggered by diplomatic crises.
Aircraft from the PLA's Hong Kong base mainly comprise helicopters, the source said.
He also said the PLA would notify Hong Kong's Civil Aviation Department (CAD) about drills several weeks beforehand, so the area, mostly a 10 to 20-kilometre strip of airspace, could be kept clear.
Pilots usually practice firing their weapons in two out of the 10 drills, he said. But the CAD would make estimates of where the shells may land to ensure no one was at risk.
Hong Kong-based PLA analyst Ma Ding-shing said there was no cause for alarm, and rejected fears that tensions over territorial disputes in the South China Sea may have led to an increase in military exercises near Hong Kong.
"There should not be over-speculation since every army, [even] if they are not at war, is supposed to have regular drills," said Ma.
The Beijing loyalist newspaper, Wen Wei Po, reported this week that the PLA's Guangzhou division was staging a drill in southeastern seas involving the navy and air force. However, the news was not widely publicised locally.
CCTV yesterday reported that the PLA had just completed a comprehensive drill, including a counter-air-attack exercise, in the South China Sea.