China’s army celebrated the Hong Kong handover with gift bags, fruit carvings, and machine guns

While more than a hundred thousand Hong Kongers were protesting mainland’s China’s ever-increasing control over the semi-autonomous city last week, the People’s Liberation Army held a different kind of celebration, holding an open house on its Hong Kong base in Stonecutter Island.

The soldiers were effusively friendly, with army chefs holding a watermelon carving contest and soldiers happy to pose for selfies. Each of the roughly 15,000 visitors was given a gift bag with Chinese and Hong Kong flags, along with fans, hats, and bottles of water. Left unmentioned was the threat that Beijing might send in PLA troops to restore order in Hong Kong if the protests over the mainland’s control get out of hand.

The open-day events have been held annually since the handover in 1997. But with the military’s violent crackdown in Tiananmen Square fresh in everyone’s mind, this year’s “anti-terrorist demonstration”—which reduced several of the young children to tears due to the loud simulated gunfire—took on a more ominous tone. Here’s what the July 1st holiday—which China says is also the anniversary of the founding of China’s Communist Party though historical documents say otherwise—looked like at the PLA base in Hong Kong.

The performance
PLA soldiers perform for visitors on July 1, the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to Beijing. (Cathy Sizhao Yi)
More performance
(Cathy Sizhao Yi)
visiter taking a photo on the battleship with a helicopter behind.
(Cathy Sizhao Yi)
(Cathy Sizhao Yi)
Anti-terrorism performance
Soldiers practice an anti-terrorism drill using real weapons. (Cathy Yi Sizhao)
Another anti-terrrism performance
PLA soldiers perform an anti-terrorism exercise. (Cathy Sizhao Yi)
detail of the helicopter
PLA helicopters and other machinery were on display. (Cathy Sizhao Yi)
(Cathy Sizhao Yi)
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