The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has cleared a crucial obstacle in its bid to build a military port along Hong Kong’s waterfront.
According to China’s state broadcaster, CCTV, the Town Planning Board of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region voted unanimously to green light the building of a military port for the People’s Liberation Army’s Hong Kong Garrison in its Central district. The report said the port would be built across an area stretching 2,970 square meters.
The port’s construction must now be approved by Hong Kong’s top policymaking body, Agence France-Presse reported, citing China’s state media.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
The CCTV report cited a spokesperson for the Town Planning Board as saying preparations for the port had begun in 1994, three years before China reassumed control over the Special Administrative Region. It also said that the port will be the first that the PLA has built in Hong Kong since retaking control over the city from England in 1997.
However, as the South China Morning Post’s Alex Lo notes in a scathing commentary against the move, the port area has always been designated as “sometimes for PLA use, but mostly for public use.” This allowed the PLA to use the port when it wished, while still maintaining it under Hong Kong’s control when the PLA was not using it. According to Lo, the new plan will see Hong Kong cede jurisdiction over the waterfront area to the PLA commander of the Hong Kong garrison.
The Town Planning Board’s approval of the new port came despite heavy opposition from Hong Kong citizens to the proposal. According to the AFP report, which cited an earlier report from the South China Morning Post, some 19,000 Hong Kong citizens have sent in comments about the proposal over the last year. Of these, all but 20 were generally negative of the proposed move.
Last December, pro-independence Hong Kong activists broke into the PLA’s Hong Kong headquarters demanding that China’s military withdraw from the SAR. Press reports at the time said that the main grievance of the protestors, reportedly a part of a group calling itself “Hong Kong People First,” was the proposal to convert the harbor front property into a military port. A second, smaller break in was reported the following month.
The Global Times used these two break-ins to call for the PLA to take a more active role inside Hong Kong, a move that could further strain relations between the city and mainland China.