Sprawl may threaten military facilities

BEIJING – China’s rapid urbanization and local governments’ uncurbed pursuit of fast expansion have threatened the country’s military facilities and infrastructure, a senior army officer warns.

Citing the results of a national inspection, Meng Guoping, a senior officer with the General Staff Headquarters of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), said breakneck and often illegal construction has long been impinging upon places that were once tightly controlled by the military and has affected the country’s preparedness for combat.

Since June, an inspection team headed by Meng and consisting of officials from the National People’s Congress, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of State Security and other central government departments conducted on-site checks at 36 underground command centers, military airports and missile bases in seven provincial-level regions, including Beijing municipality and Heilongjiang, Qinghai and Yunnan provinces.

“More than 90 percent of the restricted military areas, military management areas and the combat infrastructure have set their security perimeters,” Meng was quoted as saying by Xinhua News Agency.

The inspection found that most of the measures taken to protect military installations have proved effective and are satisfactory, he said, adding that local authorities have placed a due priority on improving such measures.

Even so, the inspection raised the concern that severe “damage could occur to the security of military facilities and to weapon preparedness and efficiency,” Meng said.

“Some important bases have effectively lost their ability to be used in a war.”

He cited three potentially large threats to military facilities: security risks in some highly confidential areas; the possibility of interruptions in the electromagnetic fields used for communication and in the operation of airports; and the unauthorized use, at places not belonging to the military, of signs meant to warn people away from military facilities.

The officer cited several instances in which facilities have been forced to move or have become less effective because of urban sprawl or a local government’s overzealous pursuit of economic development regardless of the effect on military facilities.

A PLA radio transmitter in Beijing was found to have been enclosed by residential buildings for years. Even the bases of its antennae had been covered by the buildings’ roofs.

New high-rises in Zhengzhou, capital of the populous central province of Henan, have hindered military aircrafts from taking off from a suburban air force base.

In Harbin, capital of Northeast China’s Heilongjiang province, the illegal construction of navigation and hydropower projects caused a flood at a shooting range used by the PLA Air Force, thus interrupting a bombing drill.

The National People’s Congress passed the Law on the Protection of Military Installations in February 1990 and several notices and rules on the law’s implementation have been made since then in attempts to better protect military facilities.

The law requires local governments to take the protection of military installations into consideration when drafting economic and social development plans and ensure that real estate and tourism projects stay a safe distance away from military facilities.

Local authorities have also cracked down on illegal activities that threaten the security of the facilities, according to Bai Jianmin, who works in the General Staff Headquarters of the PLA and oversees the efforts to protect military installations.

From 2005 to August 2010, the police have solved 310 criminal cases that involved the sabotage of military installations, according to Bai.

Source: China daily

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