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PLA HK Garrison wins hearts and minds

By Willa Wu | China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-21 07:16

A soldier from the People's Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison teaches a child to use a mock laser gun. ZHOU HANQING/CHINA DAILY

Openness and care for the community ensure a warm welcome in the city, as Willa Wu reports from Hong Kong.

The People's Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison has been well-trained, disciplined and civilized during its 20 years in Hong Kong, playing a positive role in safeguarding the city's stability, said Lieutenant General Tan Benhong, the garrison commander.

The garrison has won Hong Kong people's hearts with its low-profile presence, growing openness and continuous care and respect for the local community, he added.

The garrison is a pioneer in China's military history because it is the first time the PLA has stationed and managed troops in a city that has a capitalist economic system and enjoys a high degree of autonomy.

As a result, the garrison's soldiers follow stricter patterns of discipline.

After China resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong on July 1, 1997, many in the city feared the garrison would interfere in local affairs. Keeping a low-profile presence is a way of countering suspicions.

However, being low-key does not mean the soldiers never leave their bases. It simply means the garrison respects the Basic Law and the Garrison Law, and does not disturb residents.

In contrast to its low-profile presence, the garrison is open to Hong Kong people so they can learn more about it. So far, the garrison has opened its barracks to visitors 28 times, attracting 620,000 local people.

At the most recent open day, in July last year, the 26,000 free tickets were all taken within four hours of being released.

"I remember the first time we had an open day. The kids who came stood at a distance, with puzzled looks," said Fang Xuegang, deputy squad leader of a naval squadron of the garrison.

"But during last year's open day, the kids all looked excited and eager to take photos with us. Some even asked us to hug them."

Meanwhile, the garrison has organized 12 military summer camps for teenagers and six military experience camps for university students.

As a result, 3,600 local people have caught a glimpse of the country's military power and learn about national security and the progress of the PLA and the country.

In the past 20 years, in addition to routine training and military missions, the garrison has also actively participated in Hong Kong's public activities, showing their care and concern for the community.

The troops have planted more than 92,000 trees, donated 3,380 liters of blood and offered help to 4,300 seniors and children in care homes.

Every day at 6 am, soldiers from the garrison's squadrons spend half an hour on voluntary work-salvaging rubbish floating on the waters near their base on Stonecutters Island.

"We don't produce the rubbish, but we feel obliged to keep Hong Kong clean because the city is a second home to us," Fang said.

During the run-up to the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China, the garrison will maintain a number of principles.

The base will adhere to the one country, two systems principle, discipline itself in accordance with national laws, the Basic Law and the Garrison Law, and equip itself with advanced weaponry and knowledge.

Additionally, the troops will, safeguard national sovereignty, security and developmental interests, as well as Hong Kong's long-term stability and prosperity, said Yue Shixin, political commissar of the Hong Kong Garrison.

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