China troops in Hong Kong must avoid 'capitalist lifestyle'
July 5, 2012, 12:36 am TWN
HONG KONG -- China's secretive troops stationed in Hong Kong face a slew of restrictions to prevent them from indulging in the city's "capitalist lifestyle," a report said Wednesday, in a rare glimpse of their military life.
The People's Liberation Army (PLA) took over defense duties in Hong Kong after Britain handed the southern Chinese city over in 1997, with operations long-shrouded in secrecy.
But after a rare visit granted to the South China Morning Post recently, the paper said the 6,000 troops led a life that was "cut off almost completely from a city that they train so rigorously to defend."
The soldiers, sailors and airmen are strictly confined to their 18 barracks across the semi-autonomous city, and have to spend even their weekly day off in their dormitories, prevented from engaging with the Hong Kong public.
"We are not allowed to go out during days off or public holidays," Lieutenant Commander Shi Liqing told the widely read English newspaper.
"But we encourage the sailors to cultivate healthy personal hobbies," added Shi, who oversees cultural activity at the PLA Hong Kong's naval base.
The Post quoted the PLA as saying the isolated lifestyle was to "prevent their military spirit from becoming contaminated by Hong Kong's capitalist lifestyle," in a city known for its free speech and luxury shopping stores.
The troops, whose recruitment requirements are higher than on the mainland and must be at least high school educated, go through a 16-hour daily routine of work or training starting at 6 a.m., according to the report.
They take an obligatory two-hour nap at 2 p.m., the report said, adding that they pass their spare time in the barracks playing chess, cards and singing karaoke.
The Hong Kong garrison staged a startling show of military might with helicopters, tanks and missile launchers last Friday for Chinese President Hu Jintao, who was in the city to mark the 15th handover anniversary from Britain.
But with anti-Beijing sentiment soaring to a post-handover high, the parade drew ridicule from Hong Kongers, with one social networker saying "it feels like we are in North Korea".