PLA troops were cheered wildly and festooned with flowers as they paraded through the last stretch of the mainland to the Macau border in a carefully orchestrated send-off. The crowd was marshalled so that flag-waving groups of workers and schoolchildren had the best positions. Others who attended found themselves further back in the crowd, estimated at 150,000. Uniformed staff from numerous Zhuhai or Guangdong-government run units and companies were designated to stand closest to the police cordon. Students assigned to perform celebration programmes were also placed in key positions. The groups burst into their loudest 'Welcome, welcome' cheers and waved their flags and flowers enthusiastically whenever the television cameras were on them. Banners bearing slogans such as 'A better Macau' and 'Macau-based PLA troops are the elite of the people' were raised by the groups and firms. As they made their way through the thronged streets, troops in armoured-personnel carriers and camouflaged trucks were presented with fresh flowers by students from Zhuhai's top secondary school. Chinese flags and green Macau SAR flags were handed out to the crowd. Plastic flowers thrown into the path of the troops had been given to those representing selected organisations. Staff representing state-run companies had the chance of close contact with the army. Holding special cards issued by the Zhuhai government, they were able to bypass the crowds and stand at the front. A wheelchair-bound man from Jiangxi said he had travelled 15 hours by train to join more than 150,000 people in Zhuhai to see the troops being sent off to Macau. Wang Ping, 36, paralysed from the waist down, said: 'I feel very moved and overwhelmed about the return of Macau to China.' Wearing a suit specially for the occasion, Mr Wang said: 'Both Hong Kong and Macau are China's sacred territories. We should be happy for them.' Two years ago, Mr Wang travelled to Shenzhen to see PLA troops being sent to Hong Kong during the handover. Chen Zhenfu, 63, from Guangxi, travelled 17 hours to Zhuhai accompanied by his four-year-old granddaughter. 'I want her to have a better understanding of our country's history,' he said. Retired secondary school principal Chen Li, 73, travelled for 12 hours by coach from his hometown in Zhanjiang to witness the ceremony. He got up at 5am yesterday to secure a position to see the troops leave Zhuhai. 'This is something China has been waiting more than 400 years to see,' he said.