Troops stationed at the PLA garrisons in Hong Kong and Macau will take part in more overseas drills as they try to improve their skills, military analysts say, after soldiers from Macau joined their first exercise abroad according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP) today.
At least 250 People’s Liberation Army troops from the two garrisons joined a 10-day exercise between China, Malaysia and Thailand that ended at Port Dickson in Malaysia on Monday, according to Xinhua.
The drill, named Peace and Friendship 2018, was the first held by the three countries.
According to the SCMP troops from Macau and Hong Kong left from Hong Kong International Airport – the first time it had been used to deploy army personnel.
While it was the first overseas mission for the Macau soldiers, Hong Kong garrison troops joined their first international war games in 2016.
The PLA is the largest army in the world and has undergone a huge overhaul and upgrades to transform it into a modern fighting force.
Its garrisons in China’s two special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau, were established after their respective handovers from Britain in 1997 and Portugal in 1999.
Under the Garrison Law, the PLA must not interfere in local affairs, but troops can be called out to help with disaster relief if requested by the Hong Kong government.
The central government would have to approve the request and the troops would have to return to barracks immediately after the tasks were completed.
But earlier this month, 400 PLA soldiers were sent in groups to Hong Kong’s country parks to help remove trees felled during Typhoon Mangkhut – without a request for help from the local government. It was the first such action by the Hong Kong garrison since the city returned to Chinese rule 21 years ago.
Soldiers stationed in Macau were also deployed on the streets for the first time last year to help clean up after deadly Typhoon Hato wreaked havoc there.