Liaoning visits Hong Kong to boost patriotism

The Liaoning arriving in Hong Kong yesterday. It is accompanied by guided-missile destroyers CNS Jinan and CNS Yinchuan, and guided-missile frigate CNS Yantai, as well as J-15 carrier-borne fighter jets and helicopters in a display of military might
The Liaoning arriving in Hong Kong yesterday. It is accompanied by guided-missile destroyers CNS Jinan and CNS Yinchuan, and guided-missile frigate CNS Yantai, as well as J-15 carrier-borne fighter jets and helicopters in a display of military might in the city.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Aircraft carrier's maiden call also a display of China's military might

The pride of China's navy has sailed into Hong Kong as part of celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of the city's return to China, a maiden visit aimed at boosting patriotism among Hong Kongers.

The visit of China's first aircraft carrier Liaoning, which arrived in Hong Kong yesterday following China President Xi Jinping's visit last week, is also a display of Chinese military might in the city.

Hong Kong does not have its own army and is defended by the People's Liberation Army (PLA), which first entered the city on July 1, 1997.

The timing of the Chinese ship's arrival was symbolic, coinciding with the 80th anniversary of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident on July 7, 1937, which triggered Japan's full-scale invasion of China.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the Liaoning's visit will allow Hong Kong residents "to experience the country's military achievements".

"This will greatly enhance Hong Kong residents' understanding and recognition of the country," she said at a ceremony to welcome the Liaoning and other accompanying ships at the PLA's Stonecutters naval base yesterday morning.

Hundreds of Hong Kongers lined up overnight last Sunday for free tickets to tour the Liaoning and three other vessels, which will be open to the public for the first time starting today.

  • 60,900

    Tonnage of the warship built in the Soviet Union and commissioned into service by China in 2012. 

  • 3,000 

    Number of rooms on board the Liaoning, which is named after a north-eastern province in China. 

  • 10 

    Number of cafeterias on board; there is even a TV station and band.

 

Hong Kong-based China watcher Johnny Lau said: "By opening the aircraft carrier for the first time to Hong Kongers, the central government is showing its high regard for Hong Kong and its people. It's like a gift to Hong Kong and I believe the main purpose of Liaoning's visit is to bridge the gap between the mainland and Hong Kong.

"With the Liaoning being part of the 20th handover anniversary celebrations, it can help to raise nationalism of Hong Kong people."

He added that Beijing has plans to accept Hong Kong youth into the PLA in future and this can be done during Ms Lam's time in power.

In recent years, fears have grown among Hong Kong residents that Beijing is tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city.

Many observers and officials expect more displays of China's military might in Hong Kong, even as the 8,000 to 10,000 PLA troops stationed in Hong Kong maintain a low profile.

The Liaoning, a 60,900-tonne warship built in the Soviet Union and commissioned into service by China in 2012, had set off from Qingdao and sailed through the Taiwan Strait en route to Hong Kong.

It travelled in a battle group also made up of guided-missile destroyers CNS Jinan and CNS Yinchuan, and guided-missile frigate CNS Yantai, as well as J-15 carrier-borne fighter jets and helicopters.

The group carried out its first live-firing exercise in the South China Sea last December.

The Liaoning has some 3,000 rooms, 10 cafeterias, and even a TV station and band on board. While it is China's only operational aircraft carrier, a second - made by China - was launched in April and slated to be put into service in 2020.

Last week, China launched a new class of naval destroyer, a 10,000-tonne vessel designed and produced in the country.

China's military calls the Type 055 destroyer "the most advanced and largest warship in Asia".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2017, with the headline 'Liaoning visits HK to boost patriotism'. Print Edition | Subscribe