HONG KONG • The Hong Kong Garrison of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) conducted a live-ammunition military exercise in Hong Kong last Saturday to demonstrate its firepower, just three days after China's legislature passed a new security law.
The high-profile drill at Castle Peak firing range involved a hypothetical attack on militants that were planning to cause "destruction" on the island, reported the South China Morning Post.
But some saw it as a clear message that China was firmly in control of Hong Kong. "It took place soon after the national security law was passed last Wednesday. The passage has already shown that (Beijing) is keeping a close watch on Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan," said commentator Johnny Lau.
"(The drill) is not just about deterring pro-independence ideology, it is also a show of strength to foreign forces that Beijing accuses of meddling in Hong Kong's affairs."
The new security law states that China will mobilise its military and other forces to resist invasions and stop "armed subversion and separatism", as well as "military action".
It also says that the people of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are obliged to defend China's sovereignty.
But lawmaker Regina Ip, Hong Kong's former security secretary, who was in attendance at the exercise, saw nothing out of the ordinary in the drill.
"I don't think we need to read too much into the timing. I think the garrison has a duty to assure us that they are well-prepared and ready to defend Hong Kong if there is any threat to our security," she said.
Military commentator Ma Ding Shing, who also attended the exercise, said: "Let us not over-speculate. It is not the first time (a drill has taken place) and it certainly will not be the last."
The new security law states that China will mobilise its military and other forces to resist invasions and stop "armed subversion and separatism", as well as "military action that safeguards the nation's overseas interests".
The new law also says that the people of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are obliged to defend China's sovereignty.
In the drill, six military helicopters fired on targets set up on the mountain from distances of about 1km, with the sound of bombs and bullets shattering the usual calm atop Castle Peak.
Several armoured amphibious vehicles also rolled in, followed by soldiers with automatic rifles, to take control of the mountain, as hundreds of guests looked on, reported the South China Morning Post .
Rocket-propelled grenade launchers, mortars, and heavy machine guns were used during the 45-minute drill.
The PLA said the exercise was geared towards enhancing the combat-readiness and "spirit" of the Hong Kong-based troops, as well as to showcase their strength.
The Hong Kong Garrison said the move is a step forward to enhance its transparency to the public, especially in an international city like Hong Kong.
The drill also showed that the national security is guarded by a "mighty force", it said.
It reiterated that there is no specific imaginary enemy for this drill.
In January last year, the Hong Kong Garrison conducted a drill in Victoria Harbour, during which two frigates and three helicopters carried out a coordinated patrol across the harbour.
CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK