THE LIAONING

Take a tour of China’s first aircraft carrier, a secondhand Soviet-era ship now in Hong Kong

Obsession
China's Transition
Obsession
China's Transition

China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was open to the public for the first time this past weekend. The event took place in Hong Kong as part of the 20th anniversary marking the city’s handover to Chinese rule.

The Liaoning is making a five-day port call in Hong Kong that started on July 7, a week after Chinese president Xi Jinping toured the former British colony and warned against crossing a “red line” in challenging Beijing’s authority. The military allowed aboard 2,000 Hong Kongers who had previously lined up for tickets given out on a first-come, first-served basis. The visitors were asked to present their permanent ID cards, but were not charged an entry fee. A Chinese Navy spokesperson said earlier this month that the carrier’s visit is part of efforts to raise patriotism among Hong Kong people.

The Liaoning, once known as the Varyag, was built in a Ukrainian shipyard in the late 1980s. In 1998, after the fall of the Soviet Union, China bought the unfinished hulk of the carrier for $20 million through a middleman, who pretended to use the ship to set up a floating casino in Macau. (Beijing was concerned that buying the carrier would antagonize the US.)

Commissioned by the Chinese navy in 2012, the Liaoning was renamed after the northeastern Chinese province where it was refitted for over a decade. It can base 24 Shengyang J-15 fighter jets. (In April, China unveiled its second—and first domestically built—aircraft carrier, the Type001A, which has yet to be named.) It measures 300 meters (984 feet) long and weighs 60,000 metric tons (66,139 tons).

From designated areas guests could view the ship’s fighters, helicopters, and other carrier-based weapons. Here’s a selection of the Liaoning photos journalists captured from land and on board:

China's first aircraft carrier Liaoning sails into Hong Kong on its maiden visit, in Hong Kong, China, July 7, 2017.
The Liaoning sails into Hong Kong on its maiden visit on July 7. (Reuters/Stringer)
China's aircraft carrier Liaoning sails past a container ship as it enters Hong Kong, China July 7, 2017.
The Liaoning sails past a container ship. (Reuters/Bobby Yip)
The Liaoning (R), the first aircraft carrier commissioned into China's military, arrives in Hong Kong, China, 07 July 2017. The Liaoning, a refitted former Soviet carrier that Beijing bought from a Ukraine shipyard in 1998, is making a 5-days port call to Hong Kong as part of the 20th anniversary celebrations of Hong Kong's return to Chinese sovereignty.
The Liaoning (right) arrives in Hong Kong on July 7. (EPA/Jerome Favre)
Fighter jets are seen on board China's aircraft carrier Liaoning as it sails into Hong Kong, China, July 7, 2017.
J-15 fighter jets are seen on board the Liaoning. (Reuters/Bobby Yip)
Fighter jets sit on the deck of the Liaoning, the first aircraft carrier commissioned into China's military, arrives in Hong Kong, China, 07 July 2017. The Liaoning, a refitted former Soviet carrier that Beijing bought from a Ukraine shipyard in 1998, is making a 5-days port call to Hong Kong as part of the 20th anniversary celebrations of Hong Kong's return to Chinese sovereignty.
The J-15, also known as the Flying Shark, is often compared to the US’s F/A-18, made by Boeing. (EPA/Jerome Favre)
Visitors walk on China's first aircraft carrier Liaoning during an open day at a naval base in Hong Kong, China, July 9, 2017. Picture taken July 9, 2017.
Visitors walk on the Liaoning on July 9. (Reuters/China Daily)
Visitors holding China and Hong Kong's flags pose for pictures on China's first aircraft carrier Liaoning during an open day at a naval base in Hong Kong, China, July 9, 2017. Picture taken July 9, 2017.
Visitors holding China’s and Hong Kong’s flags pose for photos. (Reuters/China Daily)
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