Chinese aircraft carrier will open to public for first time in Hong Kong, military insider says
Details of the Liaoning’s visit to the city are expected to be announced on Sunday
China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, will be open to the public for the first time when it visits Hong Kong in the coming week, according to an insider from the People’s Liberation Army Hong Kong garrison.
“The Liaoning will be open for public tours during its upcoming visit as part of the PLA’s celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of the handover. Details of the arrangements will be announced on Sunday,” the person, who requested anonymity, told the Sunday Morning Post on Saturday.
Defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian on Thursday confirmed that the Liaoning would make a port call in Hong Kong on its way to a “routine transregional training mission”, but he did not elaborate on when the carrier would visit or whether the public would get a chance to board the vessel.
A source close to the PLA earlier told the Post that the aircraft carrier was scheduled to visit Hong Kong on July 7 and would leave on July 11.
Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said the Liaoning could draw on the experience of US aircraft carriers when they have visited the city and opened to the public.
“As a carrier with 60,000 tonnes of displacement, the Liaoning will berth in Hong Kong waters – it won’t dock near Victoria Harbour,” Li said.
He said it would be the first time the public had been given the chance to board the ship. “This is definitely a great honour given by Beijing to the people of Hong Kong. This hasn’t happened on the mainland – the public haven’t had a chance to look at this aircraft carrier yet,” Li said.
Large aircraft carriers must berth in deepwater ports such as that at Tsing Yi, where visiting US aircraft carriers have docked when making port calls to the city.
Another source close to the PLA said other warships that will be accompanying the Liaoning to Hong Kong would probably dock near Victoria Harbour so that more people could see or board the vessels.
The Liaoning left Qingdao in Shandong province on June 25, travelling with a flotilla that includes the destroyers Jinan and Yinchuan, and frigate Yantai. It was also carrying a squadron of J-15 fighter jets and some helicopters, Xinhua reported.
The aircraft carrier is a renovated Soviet vessel. It was originally launched in 1985 for the Soviet navy. China bought the ship from a Ukrainian shipyard in 1998 and spent more than seven years refurbishing it. It was commissioned into the navy in 2012.