PLA garrison holds joint exercise with French navy frigate outside Hong Kong waters

Drill meant to ‘raise defence capability’ of troops stationed in city

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 March, 2018, 11:08pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 March, 2018, 11:17pm

The People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong conducted a joint exercise with the French military – its first with foreign forces – according to a state media report on Saturday.

The drill was held outside local waters with the navy frigate Vendémiaire, which arrived in the city on Monday and Friday.

The operation was meant to “raise the defence capability of the troops stationed in Hong Kong”, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

In addition to the maritime drill, crew aboard the Vendémiaire and members of the Hong Kong garrison interacted and visited one another’s vessels, it was also reported.

Jean-Maurice Ripert, the French ambassador to China, earlier flew in from Beijing for a welcome dinner with the PLA. He revealed the joint exercise to local news outlet HK01 after it spotted five mainland officers departing the frigate on Monday.

Ripert said the drill comprised search and rescue operations as well as communication exercises. It took place on Friday after Vendémiaire had left Hong Kong waters.

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“The PLA Hong Kong garrison is responsible for carrying out rescue operations in case of maritime disasters,” military commentator Leung Kwok-leung said, describing the joint exercise as appropriate.

“As it was not conducted in Victoria Harbour, it was not that controversial.”

The PLA Hong Kong garrison is responsible for carrying out rescue operations in case of maritime disasters
Leung Kwok-leung, military commentator

Last June, Feng Wei, deputy director of Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, said the Chinese army’s local troops would play a bigger role in boosting the city’s patriotism, as the garrison celebrated the 20th anniversary of both its establishment and the 1997 handover.

During the celebrations, President Xi Jinping inspected 20 squads of the garrison in the city’s biggest military parade since the transfer of British rule.

A rare PLA navy show was later staged in Hong Kong waters. The public were given a chance to explore the Liaoning, a refitted former Soviet carrier that Beijing bought from a Ukrainian shipyard in 1998.

Hong Kong police had no comment about the recent drill, noting it was conducted outside local waters.

The French frigate berthed in Kennedy Town, and an open day was held on Tuesday.

Based in Nouméa in New Caledonia, a French territory in the southwest Pacific Ocean, the Vendémiaire is now on a three-month Asian mission that includes sailings to Indonesia, South Korea, mainland China and Guam.