PLA throws open doors at Hong Kong's barracks
The queue outside the People's Liberation Army barracks started forming at 11pm on Saturday, and by the time the soldiers emerged, armed with tickets for their open day, hundreds of people were waiting in line - a very orderly line, of course.
The chance to see inside the PLA barracks has become a big draw over the years, and all 25,000 free tickets for the open days to mark the 16th anniversary of the handover were gone before the morning was out.
The PLA's Shek Kong Barracks and San Wai Barracks open their gates next Sunday, and its Ngong Shuen Chau Barracks is open on Monday July 1.
At the head of the queue of 100 or so people outside the Central Barracks early yesterday was Henry Cheung, aged 21.
"I can't wait to see the new corvette," said Cheung, a fan of military affairs who came away with four tickets for the Ngong Shuen Chau Barracks.
Commenting on the controversial plans for a military pier on the new Central waterfront, he said he was all for the military berth being built as long as the promenade remained.
"Hong Kong is part of China. We need to have defence facilities. But keeping the waterfront for public access is of equal importance, too."
In February, the government proposed rezoning the area from an open space to a military site, prompting concerns over reduced public access to the waterfront. The army's pledge to open up the area when it is not in use, and to provide a road behind the pier connecting the east and west parts of the promenade, has not allayed those concerns.
Benson Li Kam-sum, 12, arrived with his father at about 6am, both wearing camouflage military uniforms.
"I've been to visit the barracks every year since I was three," said Li. "Their equipment advances every year and the events they prepare for us are always different from the previous year's."
On open days, visitors will be able to see mock anti-terrorist raids, marches, military bands, martial arts shows and new weaponry.
They can also visit the soldiers' living quarters.
The PLA is responsible for Hong Kong's defence under the Basic Law, but the mainland soldiers maintain a low profile.
About 6,000 PLA soldiers, sailors and airmen are based in the city. They are confined to 18 barracks across the territory.