PLA to parade prowess in Hong Kong
During President Xi Jinping’s first visit to Hong Kong on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the territory’s reversion to Chinese rule, the Hong Kong Garrison of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will conduct a military review on 30 June.
The event is being held at the Shek Kong Air Base in the New Territories, and although Shephard was refused an invitation to attend, interesting information could be gleaned from photos of rehearsals that have been taking place.
Perhaps most notable is the presence of Dongfeng CSK141 4x4 armoured vehicles that have never been seen in Hong Kong before. There was a formation of ten long-wheelbase vehicles in the review line-up. With a gross vehicle weight of 5.7t, the CSK141 can seat ten personnel and it measures 5.1m long, 2.35m wide and 1.86m high.
For purposes such as riot control, such vehicles would offer a less robust presence than larger armoured vehicles already in the inventory.
Also of significance was the number of Type 92B (ZSL92B) 6x6 armoured personnel carriers on display. Five years ago when President Hu Jintao conducted a review of the Hong Kong Garrison there were 30 such vehicles on display. This year there are 60.
Three pairs of HQ-6A short-range surface-to-air missile systems were also in attendance. The HQ-6A includes 6x6 missile launchers (export name LY-60) plus 8x8 trucks carrying a Type 730B 30mm close-in weapon system and radars (export name LD2000).
The presence of these PLA Air Force air defence systems were revealed in the 2012 parade, although they have not yet been exhibited to the public.
Various other vehicles such as Dongfeng EQ2050 Mengshi 4x4 light tactical vehicles, signals trucks and medical vehicles were also part of the parade formation.
Although not yet seen in rehearsals, Z-8KH helicopters and Z-9 helicopters are expected to appear as part of the air component on 30 June. The Hong Kong Garrison operates both Z-9ZH command and Z-9WA rotorcraft armed with anti-tank missiles and rockets.
For the past 20 years the PLA has maintained an almost invisible presence in Hong Kong. However, the military, the armed wing of the Chinese Communist Party, has promised to take up a far more prominent role in society.
VAdm Yuan Yubai and political commissar Gen Wei Liang of the PLA’s Southern Theatre Command penned an article last week commemorating the 20th anniversary of the handover. They wrote, ‘The PLA’s garrison in Hong Kong is not only a military garrison; more importantly, it is a political garrison. [It] has changed from being a symbolic presence to a show of force, from image building to combat capability development.’
A more visible presence is definitely imminent, with the Liaoning, the PLA Navy’s first aircraft carrier, expected in Hong Kong for a port visit a week after Xi’s visit. The carrier will have embarked J-15 fighters aboard. However, given the self-imposed secrecy of the PLA, it will be surprising if the public or foreign media are allowed aboard the carrier.
The carrier’s task force will include the Type 052D destroyer Yinchuan, Type 052C destroyer Jinan and Type 054A frigate Yantai. In all, around 2,000 PLAN sailors will make the port call.
There are also rumours of a flypast of J-20 and J-15 fighters. Certainly, this upcoming naval visit will act as a timely demonstration of Chinese prowess and strength to Hong Kong residents, something that the PLA has promised will only grow.
Two new vessels recently spotted in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour are an addition to the local garrison. These two ferries of indeterminate nomenclature likely replace older passenger ferries already stationed at the PLAN’s Stonecutters Island Naval Base. They provide the PLA the ability to quickly move troops to outlying islands or elsewhere in the territory.
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