Chinese President Xi Jinping has inspected People’s Liberation Army troops at the Shek Kong Barracks in the New Territories.
Xi arrived on Thursday for a three-day “inspection” of Hong Kong – the first time he has visited as Chinese leader.
His visit comes ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Handover of Hong Kong to China.
As well as serving as president, Xi is also the secretary-general of the the Chinese Communist Party, and chairman of the Central Military Commission.
It has been five years since the PLA Hong Kong Garrison received an inspection. Former leader Hu Jintao visited in 2012 – the 15th anniversary of the handover.
The inspection lasted for around eight minutes. It was the largest ever inspection on Hong Kong soil, with 20 squads present, up from the 15 squads Hu inspected.
Slogans on the buildings along the inspection read “Fully interpret ‘One Country, Two Systems'” and “Resolutely safeguard Hong Kong’s long term prosperity and stability.”
Xi was riding atop a vehicle with plate number ZG2017. ZG is the plate used by the PLA here, meaning “zhu gang,” or Hong Kong Garrison.
Tan Benhong, commander of the PLA Hong Kong Garrison, was also aboard a vehicle a with plate reading ZG 1997. Both numbers refer to the Handover.
During the inspection, after Xi said “comrades, greetings” to the soldiers, the soldiers shouted back “chairman, greetings,” instead of the usual “leader, greetings.”
The “leader, greetings” slogan dates back to 1984 when Deng Xiaoping inspected the National Day military parade in Tiananmen Square.
Military commentator Ma Ding Sheng told news outlet HK01 that the change was unprecedented.
He said it could be intended to emphasise Xi’s position as the top Chinese leader: “There can only be one chairman, but there could be a lot of leaders.”
Ma said it may also be intended to stress China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong.