The People's Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison rotated its troops for the 22nd time on Thursday in a routine annual move meant to protect the special administrative region's prosperity and stability, a spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense said on Thursday.
The annual rotation, approved by the Central Military Commission to meet Hong Kong's safety requirements, is in line with the Law of the People's Republic of China on Garrisoning the HKSAR, Senior Colonel Ren Guoqiang said in a news briefing in Beijing.
The new personnel had arrived at the Hong Kong barracks via land, sea and air. They had been trained and had studied the general situation in Hong Kong and relevant laws, according to Xinhua News Agency. The PLA Macao Garrison also rotated its troops on Thursday for the 20th annual time.
Ren said the garrison in Hong Kong will carry out exercises and will resolutely follow the command of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the Central Military Commission in fulfilling their obligation of defending the city in accordance with the law.
"For 22 years, the PLA Hong Kong Garrison has been a staunch guardian of national sovereignty, security and the people's interests," he said, adding it has the capability and confidence to uphold the "one China, two systems" principle and contribute to Hong Kong's long-term prosperity and security.
Senior Colonel Liu Chaohui, deputy chief of staff of the PLA Hong Kong Garrison, told China Central Television on Thursday that the rotation will further improve the garrison's ability to fulfill its defense duties.
The garrison will firmly implement the "one country, two systems" principle, the Basic Law of the HKSAR and the Law of the People's Republic of China on Garrisoning the HKSAR, and "resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests", he said.
When asked about recent China-US military-to-military relations as tension rises between the two militaries, Ren said China highly values China-US military relations, but the United States must create positive conditions and opportunities for this relationship to develop.
On Wednesday, the US guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of China's Yongshu and Meiji reefs in the South China Sea, prompting the PLA Southern Theater Command to dispatch vessels and aircraft to dispel the US vessel.
Senior Colonel Li Huamin, a spokesman for the PLA Southern Theater Command, said in an online statement that the US warship's encroaching on Chinese territorial waters is "provocative" and "has seriously harmed China's sovereignty and security interests, and seriously damaged peace and stability in the South China Sea region".
Ren said the US military has repeatedly made the same mistakes in trespassing in neighboring waters and airspace of Chinese territory in the South China Sea. "China resolutely opposes these actions and urges the US side to immediately stop."
Last week, the US State Department approved an $8 billion sales package - including 66 Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets - for Taiwan. Ren said the arms deal will not change the power dynamics across the Taiwan Straits and will only send an erroneous signal to Taiwan secessionists and put Taiwan in danger.
In early August, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the US will soon put intermediate range missiles in Asia after pulling out of a landmark arms control treaty with Russia. Ren said the US exiting the treaty is a testament to its pursuit of unilateralism and dodging international responsibility.
"China adamantly opposes the US deploying intermediate missiles in Asia," Ren said, adding that such actions will damage the security interests of Asian countries and undermine peace and security in the region.
"We hope the US side can pay attention to its words and deeds," he said. "The Chinese military safeguarding its legitimate national security and interests is unshakable."