Xi Jinping commends elite PLA squad based in Hong Kong
President bestows honorary title on unit in morale booster ahead of handover anniversary celebrations
President Xi Jinping has bestowed an honorary title on an elite combat squad of the People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong in what is being seen as a morale boosting move as the city marks two decades since its handover to China.
The official Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday that Xi, in his capacity as chairman of the Central Military Commission and commander-in-chief of China’s armed forces, recently conferred the honorary title of “the model special operation company of the Hong Kong garrison” on the elite squad.
Xi praised the unit for having “scrupulously abided by military discipline and consistently made new achievements”, Xinhua reported.
The president also “urged all PLA troops and armed police forces to firmly follow the command of the [Central Military Commission]”.
“All military officers and soldiers should study the [commission’s] innovative ideas and strengthen their own political awareness to maintain absolute loyalty,” Xinhua said.
“The army should base their practices and drills on real battle scenarios and set combat readiness as the priority so that they can immediately enter combat situations when needed.”
The company being feted is a special task force dubbed by mainland media as “the tip of a pointed knife”, or “best of the best”. The Hong Kong public has seen them displaying their skills during the garrison’s open days.
A spokesman for the garrison declined to comment further.
Macau-based military affairs commentator Antony Wong Tung said he believed the timing of Xi’s move was related to Hong Kong’s handover anniversary.
“It can help boost morale,” he said.
But Wong warned against “overinterpretation”, saying: “This should not be taken as suggesting that Hong Kong’s terror threat is rising and so China is prepared to send in elite soldiers.”
Hong Kong is already on high alert ahead of an expected visit by Xi for the handover celebrations. Counter terrorism police officers are expected to be out in force. The authorities are ramping up security precautions in the wake of terror attacks in Europe – most recently in London.
In a rare, high-profile exercise, the navy and air force units of Hong Kong’s PLA garrison mounted a joint patrol last week.
The local garrison has invited media coverage for a celebratory event on Friday related to the handover anniversary, but it has not revealed details.