Across China: Barracks opening brings military closer to public
WUHAN, Aug. 15 (Xinhua) -- It was neither a computer game nor some kind of physical training, though there were parachute packs, chariots, wrestling, rope walking and rock climbing, all appearing together in the outskirts of Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province.
In fact, they were all part of an opening of the Chinese military's barracks to the public, held on Wednesday morning in the provincial capital, with more than 3,000 citizens participating in the activities.
Held in two barracks, which belong to the armed police and the airborne troops, the activity is part of China's plan to open over 600 barracks for public visits to bring the military closer to the public.
Officers and soldiers in both barracks offered several performances such as wrestling and bayonet fighting, as well as displayed various weapons and equipment used in their training, which are rarely seen, let alone permitted to be touched by citizens.
In the barracks yard of the airborne force, the main site of the activities, sweating participants gathered around different parachute packs, waiting for a chance to wear them, despite the temperature of around 35 degrees centigrade (95 Fahrenheit).
While others took the chance to talk with soldiers, asking them about details of the weapons and equipment on display in the yard, such as how they work and what they are used for.
"I'm a military fan and have been considering joining the army, so I wanted to learn more about their equipment," said Liu Zhenhao, a sophomore, who learned about the activity from an announcement in his college. He soon applied and passed a small national defense knowledge test as a pre-requisite for the visit.
Li Qian, a 65-year-old retiree, scored 92 out of 100 points in the test. As a fan of both the military and photography, he brought a DSLR camera with telephoto lens, taking photos of the soldiers from different angles throughout their performances.
"I learned more about both the military equipment and their developments by participating in the activity," said Li. "I will share the photos and what I learned today with my family."
While not all participants were big military fans like Liu and Li, many of them learned more about the military, their equipment, and their functions in a more real way.
"This is my first time to take such a close look at the military, and it's really exciting," said Chen Yijun, a senior who came with his girlfriend.
"Most of the participants are not so familiar with the military weapons and equipment," said Zhu Hao, a soldier from the barrack in charge of introducing some of the equipment. The 27-year-old has been working with the equipment for eight years, yet has rare chances to introduce them to the public.
"Many people have seen similar equipment in popular TV dramas or movies, so they were very interested to know more about them, and we also hope people can know us more via activities like this," said Zhu.
China announced it would open more than 600 barracks to the public at the end of July. The plan covers barracks of the army, navy, air force and rocket force of the PLA and the armed police in 31 provincial regions across the country.
As an effort to help the public understand the achievements of reform and development made by the national defense and the military, the barracks will be opened during major festivals and days of commemoration.
"We hope the public will be able to truly see what the military and its soldiers are like," Zhu said.