All you need to know about Hong Kong’s biggest military display in 20 years

The troops inspected by President Xi Jinping play a vital role in the nation’s defences

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 June, 2017, 9:06pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 June, 2017, 9:06pm

At the biggest military parade in Hong Kong since the city’s handover to China in 1997, President Xi Jinping on Friday inspected 20 squads formed by more than 3,100 soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army Hong Kong garrison at the Shek Gong barracks.

Why 20 squads?

The formation was designed to mark the 20th anniversary of the PLA being stationed in Hong Kong after British troops left town, ending a 150-year presence.

Was it the biggest parade in terms of personnel?

The total number involved was similar to the previous one in 2012, when more than 3,000 soldiers formed 15 squads and were inspected by Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, for the 15th anniversary celebrations.

Why didn’t President Xi return a salute to soldiers as he did previously?

Xi did salute during a parade on September 3, 2015, to mark the 70th anniversary of the victory against Japan, but he used his left hand, prompting much speculation at home and overseas. Some put it down to nervousness by Xi, while others said left-handed salutes were more appropriate for civilians greeting troops.

Does the Hong Kong garrison have any special status?

As part of China’s military modernisation pilot scheme, it is the first multi-unit garrison to include land, sea and air fighting forces. It is directly under the leadership of the powerful Central Military Commission, which Xi chairs, and under the administrative control of the Southern Theatre Command.

Is the Hong Kong garrison a showcase of the PLA?

It has been since the handover, from the uniforms to the weapons. For example, the garrison’s troops were the first to wear the new Type 97 uniform. Weapons include advanced Type 95 rifles.

What is the latest addition to the garrison?

The 17th Squad – logistical support troops from the Shenzhen base, raising the whole garrison into a combat-ready modern force, part of Xi’s drive to overhaul the army.

Any particulary notable weapon on show?

The Type Hongqi-6 mobile air defence displayed by the 18th Squad is the most powerful and one of the most advanced. It can destroy cruise missiles and drones. When combined with the HQ-9 missile system stationed in Shenzhen it creates an air defence network for Southern China, according to Macau-based military expert Antony Wong Dong.

Which squads are breaking new ground?

Troops in the 11th Squad and 15th Signalmen Squad are specialists in counter-reconnaissance work – stealing data and infiltrating behind enemy lines. They went to Malaysia to team up with their foreign counterparts in the garrison’s first overseas joint exercise in November last year.

Which troops always seem to end up doing the dirty work?

That’s the Chemical Defence Corp in the 16th Squad, which does the groundwork on site before a parade and cleans up later. They were also called on to help in the relief effort after a landslide in Shenzhen two years ago claimed 73 lives.

Who was head coach of the parade?

Colonel Zhu Jiachun, who has taken part in numerous full-scale parades in Hong Kong and Beijing since 2002, including the 70th anniversary event in Beijing two years ago. Zhu joined the garrison in 1995 when Beijing was preparing for the handover. He also stands out for his length of service in Hong Kong – more than 15 years.