Confusion broke out early Monday morning as representatives started giving out queue numbers to people waiting in line for tickets to see the Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier, hours before the official time.
By 9.40am, all numbers had been given out at one of the distribution points, the Gun Club Hill Barracks, leaving many disappointed members of the public standing by the side of the road. Ticket distribution was originally scheduled to be from 1pm to 3pm.
Representatives waved their hands to brush off any questions from the public, saying “no more, no more.”
Chan Yok-Ching, 57, was just right behind the lucky person who snagged a number. “I have waited since 5.30am, and they couldn’t even spare a single ticket. This is very unreasonable.”
All numbers at a second location, the Shek Kong Barracks, were given out by 11.35am.
Hundreds of Hongkongers had camped overnight outside the city’s military barracks after it was announced that free tickets were available for public tours of the Liaoning and three vessels in its fleet next Saturday and Sunday.
A total of 2,000 tickets were scheduled to be given out: 800 at Central Barracks, 600 at Gun Club Hill Barracks and 600 at Shek Kong Barracks.
A little before 6am, representatives began handing out queue numbers. Those with numbers could then register with for tickets with their own Hong Kong ID card and that of one other person.
Cheers and claps broke out at the front of the line, but some of those waiting were unhappy with the arrangement, as the official timing had been given as 1pm.
Chaos erupted as people started calling their friends and family members who were not yet in line to come to the barracks.
The registration process started slow, with stringent ID checks. Many members of the public came forward to ask about the process and the requirements, sometimes getting conflicting statements from different representatives.
At the Gun Club Hill location at 8.25am, registration came to a standstill for about eight minutes due to a dispute.
Zhu Jinsong, 46, claimed he had started lining up at 10pm but left to get ID cards from his wife and daughter.
His son, who was number 20 in the queue, got two tickets by using Zhu’s card as well as his own to register.
When Zhu rejoined the queue to get two more tickets for his wife and daughter, he was not allowed to as his ID had already been registered.
A representative tried to reason with him, but Zhu refused to budge and said: “I will stay here until I get a ticket. You must give me one .”
Police brought Zhu and the representative aside to settle the argument, but he did not appear happy with the result.
“I just hope to get a ticket. We were excited about the exhibition, and now this happened,” Zhu said.
Hongkongers camp out for tickets to tour Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning in first public viewing
Others waiting in line were just as disappointed.
Isaac Liu, 25, said: “I was supposed to get a ticket for my friend as well, and now I can’t answer to him.”
He added: “My friend and I love talking about military affairs and the ships, and we thought that this exhibition was a great chance that was hard to come by. We wanted to treasure it.”
Kwang You Huan, 31, called it “a great loss” that he was unable to get tickets, but was not keen to buy them off resellers online.
“There are a lot of fakes and scams, but I couldn’t say for sure. I might get them online if I think that this exhibition is really worth going to.”
Along with the Liaoning, the other vessels in the fleet are the destroyers Jinan and Yinchuan, and the frigate the Yantai. The three smaller vessels will also be open to visitors at the garrison’s Stonecutters Island naval base on Saturday and Sunday.
Swimming coach Albert Law, 35, was first in line for tickets at Gun Club Hill Barracks.
“I never expected the Chinese Military Commission would open the Liaoning for public viewing. If I don’t see it now, I might not get a chance to in the future,” he said.
He added: “As a Hongkonger, one must take an interest in the military. It is important.”
Law said he slept in his tent to pass the time, occasionally chatting with others in the queue. “Everyone here has an interest in military affairs, it’s good.”
At Shek Kong, housewives Mrs Ma and Mrs Fung, both in their 50s, were among the first to arrive. They began queueing at 11pm on Sunday.
Ma became interested in the lives of PLA soldiers after watching the parade attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping just before Hong Kong celebrated the 20th anniversary of its handover to China. She wished to see the operation inside the Liaoning.
Fung wanted to get tickets for her children, who were ecstatic about visiting the aircraft carrier but needed to be in school on Monday.
“I rarely do things like this (queueing on the street overnight), but it is worthwhile to do so,” she said.
Construction worker Mr Tang, in his 40s, was just ahead of the housewives in line. Tang, who has never visited a PLA facility,said he was intrigued by the state-of-the-art technology on Liaoning, a symbol of China’s military prowess. “[Liaoning] means a lot here.”
The Liaoning left Qingdao in Shandong province on June 25, travelling with a flotilla that includes the destroyers Jinan and Yinchuan, and frigate Yantai. It was also carrying a squadron of J-15 fighter jets and some helicopters, according to a Xinhua report earlier.
The aircraft carrier is a renovated Soviet vessel. It was originally launched in 1985 for the Soviet navy. China bought the ship from a Ukrainian shipyard in 1998 and spent more than seven years refurbishing it. It was commissioned into the navy in 2012.
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