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Hong Kong cheers first garrison parade
By Tonny Chan (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-08-02 07:59

The Hong Kong Garrison of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) yesterday paraded to the cheers and applause of 30,000 spectators at Shek Kong barracks, reinforcing its image as "a powerful and civilized force."

Soldiers of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Hong Kong Garrison march during parade in Hong Kong August 1, 2004. Today marked the 77th anniversary of the founding of the PLA. The HK Garrison staged its first parade in special administrative region, with 3,000 soldiers marching crisply in formation as others rode in armored vehicles and helicopters, as part of efforts to boost patriotism and show their readiness to defend the country and the SAR. [Reuters] 

The PLA's first public military parade in Hong Kong aimed to display national sovereignty and show the strength of national defences; and to help promote a close relationship between the army and Hong Kong citizens.

Commander of the PLA Hong Kong Garrison, Lieutenant General Wang Jitang, yesterday reiterated the central government's "full support for the Hong Kong government led by Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa to rule the SAR according to the law".

He said that the garrison troops would uphold the principle of "one country, two systems" and continue to strictly abide by the Basic Law and related military legislation while carrying out defence duties in Hong Kong.

"We will strive to make new contributions to the prosperity, stability and development of Hong Kong," he said.

The parade, which started sharp at 10:30 am to the tune of the national anthem, involved about 3,000 army officers and soldiers. Soldiers split into nine square formations, while two formations of armoured vehicles rolled past. Twelve military helicopters - three in a group - flew low overhead.

The first to stride past for review was the formation of honour guards of the garrison's army, air-force and navy. According to the PLA, this regiment has been praised by the Central Military Commission for outstanding performance and reviewed on a number of previous occasions.

Chinese soldiers of the Hong Kong Garrison take part in a parade in Hong Kong for the first time in the seven years of their stationing in the HKSAR August 1, 2004. [Reuters] 

The parade concluded with a performance by the military band.

Lee, a 64-year-old retiree from Tuen Mun, said he was glad that he had viewed in the event.

"I'm very happy," Lee said. "I'm so proud of the Chinese nation that I hope my country can be stronger every day and never kneel to others again."

In order to secure a good position along the runway where the parade was held, Lee left for the barracks at 7 am.

Ms Wu, a 36-year-old insurance agent from Yuen Long, found the training and discipline of the PLA soldiers impressive.

"I respect them. I've seen a lot of them rescuing people in floods and fires on television. This is my first time to see them in person in a military parade," she said.

Among those attending were Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa; Director of Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong Gao Siren; and Commissioner of the Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong, Yang Wenchang.

Principal officials of the SAR government, local National People's Congress deputies, members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and legislators were also present.

The PLA Garrison in Hong Kong held a reception in the evening to mark the 77th founding anniversary of the PLA.

Spectator John Fong was completely awestruck after witnessing the PLA's first open military review in the territory at Shek Kong barracks yesterday.

Fong, a Hong Kong businessman, was among 30,000 residents who viewed the military parade.

"I was totally mesmerized by the impressive military strength and organization of the People's Liberation Army, and it is also reassuring to know that Hong Kong is protected by an advanced and modern army," Fong told China Daily.

He said the Hong Kong Garrison should organize a large-scale military parade every year to promote national pride among Hong Kong citizens.

The PLA parade also left a lasting impression on homemaker May Chan.

"This is the most thrilling military spectacle I have ever seen, and it has renewed my confidence in the PLA forces and our nation," she said enthusiastically.

In spite of scorching heat as temperatures reached 30 C in the morning, most citizens remained enthusiastic, and some came prepared with sunglasses and hats.

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