China’s secretive troops stationed in Hong Kong face a slew of restrictions to prevent them from indulging in the territory’s “capitalist lifestyle,” a report said yesterday, 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 territory over in 1997, with operations long-shrouded in secrecy.
However, 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 territory, 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,” said 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 territory known for its free speech and luxury shopping stores.
The troops, whose recruitment requirements are higher than in China and must be at least high-school educated, go through a 16-hour daily routine of work or training starting at 6am, according to the report.
They take an obligatory two-hour nap at 2pm, the report said, adding that they pass their spare time in the barracks playing chess, cards and singing karaoke.