China to build military port in Hong Kong

Shanghai: The controversial construction of a People’s Liberation Army port in Hong Kong’s historic Victoria Harbour has been approved, amid growing unease about China’s role in the former British colony.

The port proposal was “unanimously” passed by Hong Kong’s planning board, China’s state broadcaster announced.

The port, which would be the PLA’s first in Hong Kong, was first discussed in 1994 as part of pre-handover talks between London and Beijing, the broadcaster CCTV claimed.

Last December, at least four pro-independence activists broke into the PLA’s Central Barracks in Hong Kong, waving colonial-era flags and calling for the port project to be scrapped.

The PLA subsequently staged a major military drill in Victoria Harbour involving two frigates and helicopters. The move was widely interpreted as a reminder that Beijing held ultimate authority over Hong Kong.

Extensive public consultation on the PLA port, including “face-to-face” talks, had been carried out. Its construction in the Central district was “reasonable and in line with the overall interests of Hong Kong”, Regina Ip, a pro-Beijing member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, told the Chinese network. Government officials have attempted to reassure residents about the PLA’s presence in such a key location. In January, Hong Kong’s security minister ruled out deploying the PLA to quell protests. Last May, officials said the port would be used for “conducting military training, berthing military vessels, running ceremonial activities and carrying out pier maintenance”.

Still, the PLA’s presence in such a central and historic part of Hong Kong is highly symbolic and has added to concerns over Communist Party meddling.

Last month, the Global Times, a fiercely nationalistic Chinese tabloid, accused the United States and Britain of stirring up opposition to Beijing in order to satisfy their “own selfish interests in Hong Kong”. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy groups enjoyed “flaunting” their “real freedom” but they now needed to “learn their place,” it said.

Full article: China to build military port in Hong Kong (The Age)

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