HONG KONG • The Chinese military will be handed prime Hong Kong waterfront land today, even as the city is rocked by anti-Beijing protests.
Today, China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) will automatically be granted control of the Victoria Harbour pier under a 1994 British and Chinese agreement.
The move means PLA ships can berth in the harbour, whose backdrop is the city's famous skyline.
The PLA already has a garrison in Hong Kong, but its troops generally keep a low profile and are rarely seen in uniform in public.
Huge rallies have shaken the semi-autonomous territory this month, with demonstrators calling for the withdrawal of a Bill that would allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland.
More pro-democracy protests are expected in the coming days, as Hong Kong residents mark the anniversary of the city's 1997 handover to Beijing's rule.
A debate over the controversial pier transfer deal was blocked by a pro-Beijing lawmaker on Wednesday, quashing the pro-democracy camp's last attempt to stop the transfer. Hong Kongers were planning to demonstrate against handing over the 3,000sq m plot yesterday evening.
"This is another issue telling you that the Hong Kong government is not serving the Hong Kong people's interests. They just execute orders from Beijing," pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo said.
She added that the PLA dock will stir up public anger and boost the turnout in the upcoming annual pro-democracy rallies on Monday.
The proposal had also drawn sharp criticism over the loss of access to valuable open space if the land is converted for military use.
"Although they (government) claim that when it's not for military use, the public will be allowed in to enjoy the space, the problem is that public land is supposed to be public resources," said Ms Mo.
"You can't just give it away to Beijing like that."