HONG KONG - Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday inspected troops at the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) Hong Kong garrison as part of events to mark the 20th anniversary of the city's return to Chinese sovereignty.
The CGTN, the international arm of state broadcaster CCTV, on Friday morning showed a military parade at the Shek Kong Barracks in New Territories on its Facebook feed. It was the biggest parade ever since the city’s return to China.
"Salute to you, comrades. Salute to your dedication," shouted Mr Xi into four microphones fixed atop an open-top camouflage
jeep as the vehicle slowly drove past row upon row of air, naval and land personnel.
Dressed in a dark green Mao suit, he inspected 20 squadrons, including the air force, navy, ground forces and special forces, according to state media.
The troops responded with shouts of "Salute to you, Chairman" and "Serve the people".
Mr Xi is the chairman of China's all-powerful Central Military Commission (CMC), the highest command for the world's largest army.
Professor Xu Hui of PLA's National Defence University told CGTN on its live feed that the military inspection and parade sent an important message to "the people in Hong Kong and the mainland" about Beijing's resolve and dedication to maintain peace and prosperity in the city.
More than 3,100 officers and soldiers took part in the review, and over 100 pieces of military equipment including air defence missiles and helicopters were displayed. About 4,000 spectators from all walks of life in Hong Kong were present at the parade, according to Xinhua news agency.
Under the Basic Law, or Hong Kong's mini Constitution, the central government is responsible for the defence of Hong Kong.
Stationing troops in the city is also seen as a major symbol of Beijing's sovereignty over the territory but PLA personnel have maintained a low profile and are rarely seen outside their main barracks in Hong Kong's Central district or other smaller facilities across the territory. The army is barred from interfering in local affairs.
Every year on the July 1 anniversary, the PLA would allow Hong Kong residents to visit its Shek Kong Barracks in Yuen Long. There are around 6,000 troops based in the city.
Mr Lau Nai Keung, a member of the influential Basic Law Committee, told CGTN Hong Kong's garrison troops should hold more open-day programmes to facilitate more interaction between the troops and the residents.
Some Hong Kongers had feared the PLA would be heavy-handed since it arrived here in 1997, given the army's crackdown on student protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989.
In another show of China's military might, its first aircraft carrier Liaoning is on its way to Hong Kong to join the handover anniversary celebrations, China's Ministry of Defence said on Thursday, without specifying a date for the carrier's arrival in Hong Kong.
Local media said it is due to arrive after Mr Xi wraps up his three-day visit on Saturday.