As the massive aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, wrapped up its five-day long stopover in Hong Kong, its sailors made the most of their visit by shopping, talking to locals and even performing for the elderly.
The Liaoning’s five-day port call came shortly after the 20-year anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule. During those five days, the 60,000-ton, 300-meter long Liaoning became open to the public, allowing visitors to traipse around on board and live out their patriotic fantasies.
Since it must remain in deep water at all times, sightseers took a ferry to board the military giant. Only 2,000 lucky people received tickets, about as many as the number of sailors who live and train aboard the aircraft carrier for months at a time.
While their home was open to the public, the sailors were free to tour the city. Like any tourists would, they spent time shopping and sightseeing, although one soldier mentioned that the PLA had given them only 5,000 yuan each to spend.
Perhaps the soldiers’ most notable activity was their patriotic performance at a home for elderly citizens. According to the South China Morning Post, 20 of the Liaoning’s sailors joined 40 PLA soldiers stationed in Hong Kong in a song and dance show that praised the motherland.
After presenting their elderly audience with an honor guard rifle show, the soldiers sang songs like “Long Life to Chairman Mao” that promote loyalty to China and the Communist Party, while a handful of female soldiers danced along.
While promoting patriotism isn’t unusual for soldiers, many speculated that this show, along with the Liaoning’s visit and the handover celebrations of the past few weeks, is all part of a larger effort to encourage loyalty to China in Hong Kong.
A small portion of Hong Kong citizens are calling for the territory’s independence from China — something that Chinese President Xi Jinping was well aware of when he paid Hong Kong a visit last week to celebrate the handover anniversary.
During that visit, Xi made an official inspection tour of Hong Kong’s PLA troops, driving in a military vehicle past over 3,000 soldiers standing at attention. That event marked the largest display of military might in Hong Kong since 1997, when the colony was returned from British rule.
Some Hong Kong citizens praised the soldiers’ efforts and the opening of the Liaoning to the public. 60-year old Ceci Lai, for example, thought that it allowed the younger generation to embrace their Chinese heritage. “Teenagers in Hong Kong need to understand more about the motherland and understand their identity – that they are Chinese,” she said.
And although a fraction of Hong Kong citizens still advocate for a separation between their government and Beijing, the PLA remains certain that more people love the mainland. One officer said confidently that: “The opposition force only constitutes a small part of Hong Kong’s population.”
By Caroline Roy
[Images via NetEase]
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