Hong Kong high speed rail and the People’s Liberation Army

In 2016 an interesting conspiracy theory emerged in Hong Kong – would the new high speed rail link to Mainland China be used by the People’s Liberation Army to invade the Special Administrative Region?

The People’s Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison arrived in 1997, and has approximately 5,000 personnel posted to the city.

PLA soldier guarding Shek Kong Camp, Hong Kong

On February 20 Hong Kong politician and social activist Lee Cheuk-yan asked about military use of the new railway at a meeting of the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council.

Finance Committee of the Legislative Council
Minutes of the 34th meeting
Saturday, 20 February 2016, at 11:10 am

Use of XRL for military purpose

Mr Lee Cheuk-yan enquired whether the People’s Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison (“HK Garrison”) had the right to commandeer XRL for military purpose, and whether there was any passageway in the XRL’s Shek Kong Depot connecting to the Shek Kong Barracks of the HK Garrison. He opined that the authorities should provide a paper to explain the relationship between the Garrison Law and XRL.

Secretary for Transport and Housing (“STH”) advised that XRL was a civil railway and there was no passageway in the Shek Kong Depot connecting to the Shek Kong Barracks of the HK Garrison. He reiterated that the Garrison Law had clearly regulated the activities of the HK Garrison in Hong Kong.

At the same time, Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily picked up on the theories:

High speed rail site at Shek Kong allegedly capable of transporting weapons
February 25, 2016

Another 「政治炸彈」(political bomb) of the high-speed rail is the Shek Kong military camp. The emergency emergency rescue station for the high-speed rail is located in Choi Yuen Tsuen next door to the Shek Kong military camp. After the completion of the high-speed railway, the Neo Democrats has questioned that this station can be used both for transporting troops and transporting weapons. Some mainland media also refer to the high-speed railway track as “military and civilian use.”

The Neo Democrats’ Tam Hoi Pong pointed out that the current Shek Kong military camp is used by the People’s Liberation Army. From the aerial camera, there are small roads connected to the military camp on the high-speed rail site, while the small road is less than 20 meters away from the military camp. The mainland military is used to use high-speed rail for military purposes.

The Neo Democrats said that it would raise relevant issues at the Finance Committee meeting of the Legislative Council, and oppose the additional funding of the high-speed rail. It does not agree to use the money of Hong Kong people to build a political bomb.

After which Gary Fan raised the question a second time.

Finance Committee of the Legislative Council
Minutes of the 38th meeting
Friday, 26 February 2016, at 6:30 pm

Alleged Military Use of the XRL Project

Mr Gary Fan claimed that there was a linking rail at the Shek Kong train depot near the Shek Kong barracks and the rail seemingly led to the Shek Kong barracks. He queried whether or not XRL would be requisitioned by the People’s Liberation Army for military uses.

Secretary for Transport and Housing (“STH”) padvised that the Administration had stressed many times that XRL was purely a transport infrastructure for civilian use and there was no consideration for military use. Dr Philco Wong, Projects Director, MTR Corporation Limited added that the road link did not go to the Shek Kong barracks but to the power distribution station for the purpose of maintenance of facilities. The power distribution station and the Shek Kong barracks were separated by iron wires.

The story gained momentum, as seen in this piece published by 本土新聞Local Press on March 4:

The People’s Liberation Army newspaper acknowledged that high-speed rail is a military infrastructure used as a fast transporter

“Now News” quoted the “People’s Liberation Army Daily” report that when the high-speed rail was built, there were absolutely military considerations to quickly transport troops. In the event of a war, the high-speed rail will become a means of transport for soldiers, light armies, artillery and other equipment. The report can be described as the tail pillow after the ghost shot, confirming the reason why the Hong Kong people speculated that the high-speed rail Hong Kong section must be built, not rational economic development, but because of irrational military rule.

Which led to the official Hong Kong Government News Network to publish a Facebook post on March 9 to deny the rumours.

Roughly translated:

The Transport and Housing Bureau has clarified the inaccurate online claims and rumours and that there is no basis for any statement that the construction of the Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link may be related to military use.

But many Hong Kong people didn’t believe the denial, as detailed in this Stand News 立場新聞 piece.

High-speed rail can be personnel carriers? The Information Services Department said that there is no basis to the netizens post on the People’s Daily.
March 9, 2016

The Government News Network Facebook page uploaded a picture of a high-speed rail at 11 o’clock last night. The picture quoted the Housing Authority as saying that “the planning, design and construction of the high-speed rail section of Hong Kong is fully for civilian use and provides convenient cross-boundary transport services for passengers”

However, as soon as this post came out, the netizen immediately posted a message attached to the mainland official media “People’s Network” originally printed in the “People Liberation Army Daily” article entitled “Military transport security close to actual combat: to create a high-speed rail era “steel transport line”” report link The article includes “to avoid duplication of construction, the military agency focused on implementing the concept of military-civilian integration in the top-level design, embedding military functions in the construction of high-speed rail.” and other content to refute the government’s clarification.

The Information Services Department did not respond to the message, but many netizens commented on the government’s escort. Some people pointed out that “there is no need to use the railway. , waterways, aviation, the words are coming soon, and the People’s Liberation Army is protecting Hong Kong, transporting the People’s Liberation Army, and transporting the US Army or the Japanese Army!”

So could China use the high-speed railway to invade Hong Kong?

People’s Liberation Army deployments by high-speed train

China’s high-speed rail network has been available for the use of the People’s Liberation Army for some years.

People's Liberation Army 8X8 wheeled self-propelled gun loaded on a military train

With even Hong Kong’s Now News covering it when first publicised back in 2012.

The People’s Liberation Army refers to the rapid response of high-speed rail
May 25, 2012

The speed of development of high-speed rail in the Mainland has slowed down slightly since the Wenzhou train accident last year. However, many routes such as the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway are still open to traffic. It is still convenient for many people. The People’s Liberation Army disclosed for the first time that the high-speed rail was infiltrated with various military elements. Can be used to respond quickly.

The 1,318-kilometer-long Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway was opened to traffic last year, greatly shortening the transportation time between Beijing, Tianjin, Shandong, Shanghai, etc., between the four provinces and three cities. This convenience is not only convenient for the people, the People’s Liberation Army Daily disclosed for the first time, the military is correct. Utilizing the advantages of high-speed rail, quick and convenient, the high-speed rail is positioned as an important way of strategic transportation in the future. Once a war occurs, the PLA can respond quickly according to the high railway line.

Traditionally, the military will use ordinary railway lines to transport heavy weapons such as tanks and missiles;

The high-speed rail is responsible for transporting soldiers, as well as light weapons such as rifles and recoilless guns.

The report also revealed that the national high-speed rail system has been integrated into military and civilian elements during design. In a short period of time, the civilian railway station can be turned into a military service, which greatly shortens the reaction time of the military. For example, in the expansion project of Nanjing Station, it used the war. The standard design allows the gate to be opened, allowing the soldiers to get on the platform as soon as possible.

The high-speed rail dispatching system is also transported to the military. The status of each train on the high-speed rail line is clear at the military transport dispatching center. If the PLA officers and soldiers enter the command in the system, they can control the high-speed rail system within ten minutes and join the military train on the line.

The People’s Liberation Army has also developed a gun rack that can be placed in the car box for the high-speed trains, the indoor space is larger than the traditional trains, and the structure is stable.

Because the doors on both sides of the high-speed rail can be opened at the same time, the military has developed a fast-moving and arranging array to improve the efficiency of getting on the train by 50%. So far, the high-speed rail has sent more than 43,000 soldiers to the destination on time.

At the beginning of May, the Nanjing Military Region tried to arrange a group of soldiers carrying light weapons to reach the destination by high-speed train. The soldiers could participate in the battle as soon as they arrived, increasing the PLA’s chances of winning.

And the China News Service ran a puff piece on a PLA training exercise in 2015.

High-speed rail transport: hundreds of troops from 52 minutes to 210 kilometers away from the “battlefield”
September 09, 2015
People’s Liberation Army Daily
Reporter Dai Wei, special correspondent Gao Jie

The military station of the Shanghai Railway Bureau is close to actual combat to improve the railway military transport support capability

In the midsummer season, a high-speed rail station in northern Jiangsu, a light-loaded force of hundreds of people, quickly boarded a high-speed rail train to a certain place in eastern Fujian. After 52 minutes, the light-loaded troops appeared in the “battlefield” 210 kilometers away, just like the gods and soldiers. Wang Pengyu, director of the Military Affairs Office of the Shanghai Railway Bureau, told the reporter: “‘China Speed’ has boosted the speed of military transport and achieved a rapid arrival in the battlefield.”

The soldiers are very fast. At present, the troops are frequently stationed in the field and non-war military operations. How to quickly and accurately transport the troops and personnel to each “battlefield” has become an urgent issue facing the party committee of the military representative office. It coincides with the opportunity of the great revolution and great development of the railway. The party committee of the military representative office has identified a rationale: “The railway is speeding up, and the military transportation guarantee must be closer to the actual speed!”

In order to avoid duplication of construction, the military agency focused on implementing the concept of military-civilian integration in the top-level design, embedding military functions in the construction of high-speed rail. At the beginning of the construction of the high-speed rail, they proposed the construction of the military service supporting system and sent engineering personnel to participate in the design of the high-speed rail construction plan. From platform construction to command and dispatch, more than 30 types of high-speed rail supporting facilities have been used by the military and civilians. It is reported that they have coordinated the construction plan of a station three times, and realized that as long as the connection port is opened during the war, several channels can directly reach the platform.

The military transportation dispatching command center of the military representative office also introduced the TIS transportation information system of the Shanghai Railway Bureau high-speed railway, and added the military dispatching function to realize the dual-use military and civilian use. The reporter opened the military dispatching program, and the status of each train on the high-speed rail line in the area of ​​the railway, the vacant line and the adjustable dialing skin can be seen at a glance, and the transmission scheme can be automatically generated by simply inputting a command.

The military transport is a “pioneer” and the guarantee is to win. There are 11 high-speed railways such as Beijing-Shanghai and Nanjing-Hangzhou in the Shanghai Railway Bureau, with a total mileage of more than 2,600 kilometers, which provides a solid foundation for the speed of military transportation. At the beginning of 2014, the military representative office received an emergency military oil transportation mission, requiring tons of oil to be transported on the passenger dedicated line. They creatively used the nighttime Hanging-line transportation period, and adopted fixed-line locomotives, fixed lines, and fixed-line dedicated line pick-up operations. For the first time, military freight trains were opened on the passenger-dedicated lines, creating a precedent for the entire army. For the first time, the military representative office organized the door-to-door express transportation of military materials at the passenger station. For the first time, it temporarily added high-speed trains to organize the entire line of transportation. This series of active explorations effectively tapped the potential of the “steel transportation line” and opened up Military transportation is a new way.

And what about Hong Kong

The Shek Kong stabling sidings and emergency rescue station are a massive complex, built to service to high-speed trains that use the new line.

MTR photo

While the emergency rescue station was built for trains to discharge passengers to another train in the event of mechanical problems, or as an evacuation path in case of fire.

MTR photo

And it’s big – three tracks and two island platforms, 430 metres long to service a full 16 carriage train, and five sets of staircases back to the surface.

MTR diagram

So if you wanted to transport People’s Liberation Army troops into Hong Kong quickly, the ’emergency rescue station’ at Shek Kong beats anything with rubber tyres.

People’s Liberation Army enter Hong Kong following the 1997 handover


And before I wrote this piece, I though the joint customs and immigration checkpoint at the West Kowloon Terminus was enough of a political football!

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2 Responses to Hong Kong high speed rail and the People’s Liberation Army

  1. Ron Jack says:

    Marcus, I had a sense this article was coming, and was waiting for it.
    It answers a number of questions very well. You have done a
    masterful report. The only thing missing are photos of PLA troops with
    kit – exercising with real trains. Such images will emerge in time, or
    perhaps citizen journalists in HK will provide the images later this month.
    Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

    • I first heard about the link back in May after I published my piece on the Shek Kong sidings, but it was sitting in my backlog for a while – it took the recent protests to bring it to the front.

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