South China Sea live-fire drill for PLA’s Hong Kong garrison

China’s state broadcaster released a video on Christmas Eve of Hong Kong’s PLA garrison conducting live-fire sea drills in the South China Sea.

While key details of the events were not included, the video released on the social media account of China’s Central Television military channel, said the drills were conducted “in recent days” without specifying an exact time, or location, or the craft involved.

The PLA warship Qinzhou, a type 056 corvette, which has been used in previous Hong Kong garrison naval drills, featured in the video.

In 2018, the vessel conducted an exercise with French navy frigate Vendemiaire in waters about 20 nautical miles off Hong Kong, including search and rescue and a communication exercise. The operation was said to raise the defence capability of the troops stationed in Hong Kong.

The naval vessel Qinzhou, during the Hong Kong PLA garrison’s exercise in the South China Sea. Photo: Weibo

The vessel in the video launched “jamming missiles, to avoid enemy missile attacks” and fired secondary guns at a purported mine. Soldiers, speaking in Mandarin, appeared to take emergency actions as part of the drill, set to dramatic music in the video.

Soldiers on the boat wore uniforms and equipment marked as PLA Navy, the maritime branch of the People’s Liberation Army, led by China’s President Xi Jinping as commander-in-chief.

A small report released along with the video said the exercises were conducted by “a naval battalion”, in accordance with annual training arrangements which include combat training in the South China Sea for a Hong Kong-based naval unit.

The CCTV report said soldiers must constantly train to make a “compliant golden-hooped rod” in Hong Kong, a reference to the 16th century Chinese tale Journey to the West which features the mythical Monkey King whose magical fighting staff would do whatever its owner commanded.

In July the PLA garrison conducted joint naval and air patrol exercises, including sailing through Hong Kong harbour, amid mass protests just two days after protesters stormed the city’s Legislative Council building.

Hong Kong’s PLA garrison held a drill last week on ‘emergency dispatches’

The Chinese defence ministry has said the PLA Hong Kong garrison has the “determination, confidence and capability” to safeguard national sovereignty and maintain long-term prosperity of Hong Kong.

In November, after more than five months of increasingly violent civil unrest in the city, Chinese soldiers marched out of their barracks for the first time to help clear roadblocks and debris left by protesters.

The city’s opposition lawmakers strongly condemned the garrison for breaching the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, as well as the Garrison Law. The laws state that the garrison “shall not interfere in local affairs” and must tell the Hong Kong government in advance for “military activities such as training or manoeuvres involving the public interest”.

A Hong Kong government spokesman at the time said the garrison had volunteered its services and it was not at the government’s request. A PLA spokesman said some soldiers saw that local residents were cleaning the road outside the barracks and decided to help.

On its official Weibo account, the PLA described it as “a voluntary act to help local residents and to clear up roads around the barracks”.

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