As an important part of the series of festivities during the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China, Chinese President Xi Jinping inspected the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Garrison in the Hong Kong on June 30. It was the biggest military parade in 20 years.
The military parade is a typical ritual in major Chinese occasions. No matter what occasion it was for, from National Day to the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China, the protocol used to be the same. Basically, the president, driven past ranks of troops, would shout: “Greetings, comrades!” In return, the troops, in perfect standing position, would shout back: “Greetings, leader!”
Thereafter, the president would say: “Comrades, you have worked hard!” and the comrades would respond, “To serve the people!” The shouting ceremony would go on till the end of all squad.
However, this year, the protocol was slightly changed rather unprecedentedly. Instead of shouting “Greetings, leader!” the comrades shouted “Greetings, chairman” to Xi. In addition to being China’s president, Xi is both general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China as well as chairman of the Central Military Commission.
The unusual change of wording caught the attention of Chinese media at home and abroad.
One mainland newspaper said “chairman” highlighted “the national consciousness,” because it “reflected not only the voice of the troops stationed in Hong Kong, but also the voice of the Hong Kong people.”
Quoting a Hong Kong commentator’s words, one Hong Kong news website analyzed: “‘Chairman’ demonstrated Xi’s paramount status, since there are many ‘leaders’, but only one ‘chairman.’”
It is unclear whether the change of wording will end up being long-term or just temporary. The PLA hasn’t given (and may never give) any official explanation.
Irrespective of this wording change, the military parade demonstrated China’s military power sufficiently to the Hong Kong people this time.
According to Xinhua, the Chinese national news agency, “more than 3,100 officers and soldiers” were in the parade, and “over 100 pieces of military equipment including air defense missiles and helicopters were displayed.”
Other than the military parade, China also sent the Liaoning aircraft carrier to Hong Kong for the anniversary and the carrier will be open to visits during its five-day stay in Hong Kong.
It’s noteworthy that the Liaoning carries at least eight J-15 fighters, also known as the Flying Shark, and more than 2,000 sailors to Hong Kong, too.
However, these PLA personnel won’t be able to freely “roam around the city and enjoy Western-style leisure activities,” the South China Morning Post noted.