South China Sea
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. . . and stop corruption

THE People's Liberation Army's integration into Hongkong will not be made any easier by the corruption and indiscipline spreading within its ranks long before the first soldiers set foot in the future Special Administrative Region. A senior official has said the PLA will ensure that only specially trained, high quality soldiers are stationed in the territory and there have been strong hints that troops stationed in the urban area will not wear uniforms in public. But it will be hard to dispel the underlying fear that mainland soldiers will prove either an instrument of oppression or, more likely, to be venal and driven by greed.

Using the language of ideological communism, China's top military and public security officials have warned both the PLA and the police are falling prey to ''the corruptive ideas and lifestyles of capitalism''. China's security forces are so involved in business, either institutionally to pay for arms and military expansion or privately to line soldiers' pockets, that even the country's domestic political leadership fears its effectiveness is being undermined.

While generals cut deals with capitalist businessmen and soldiers supplement their meagre monthly wage with smuggling and taking bribes from would-be illegal emigrants, can the army be relied on to support the Communist Party? Locally, people fear that the temptations will be all the greater in capitalist Hongkong. Soldiers must therefore not only be educated in Hongkong law as the PLA promises but warned of severe consequences if they break it. Soldiers will be stationed in Hongkong to ''display sovereignty'', not to enrich themselves, legally or otherwise. They should not be encouraged to go into business or to abuse their position to make money out of local people.