The American Military Are In Hong Kong Again...

The American aircraft carrier 'USS George Washington' arrived in Hong Kong today, for what an onboard US military spokesman said was a routine port call.

During a press conference on the flight deck, David Lausman, the Captain and Commanding Officer of the large steel hulk, said how happy he was to be back in Hong Kong. "And we'll be back," he continued, "again, and again, and again, and again." Hmmmm. Is this not more than just a little presumptuous? One can't help but wonder, did he ask China for permission to bring his big guns back into Hong Kong, which as we all know is China's sovereign territory, "again, and again, and again, and again"? I doubt it. If there's one thing the Chinese, or anybody else for that matter, don't like, it is to be taken for granted.

Who knows, maybe Barack Obama and Robert Gates did perhaps ask Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao. And maybe Captain Lausman feels confident in saying what he did because US-China military ties are supposedly strengthening.

A US aircraft carrier shoot is always the same for a wire service photographer: "Get the flag in! Get the flag in! Now we need someone walking past..."

This guy, fixing his F18 fighter jet, was the only thing we were able to shoot for about half an hour, coralled as we were by sailor boys, and penned in by white ropes - forced to endure a predictable press conference in the hot end-of-October midday sun. So everyone got this shot.

Once the presser ended AFP, AP and I were kind of, sort of, semi-free to roam around with a token ethnic Chinese, but American, sailor boy escorting us around.

We got up early to board the aircraft carrier. We bobbed around at sea for an hour on a taxi boat waiting for them to sort out the pontoon so we could embark. Then we were forced to listen to a press conference that people only pretended to be interested in out of politeness. (Except for maybe Kanwa, who lapped up every word). And finally we were released for ten minutes to get our shots, before a senior looking naval officer came over and told us time was up, muttering something about a tight schedule. Be at Fenwick Pier at 8am, they told us over the phone the night before. We got back to Fenwick Pier at 1pm. Five hours of faffing around for ten minutes of freedom to photograph the military muscle of what is still, but probably not for much longer, the world's biggest superpower. But that's the name of the game. And we expect it.

Here's a US marine responsible for the aircraft carrier's security.

And here's another.

And here's a photo of three US marines huddled around a machine gun which was pointing in the general direction of Lantau Island. After taking this photo, a man in a stripey shirt ran over and told me that I was not allowed to photograph the onboard US marine security detail. Of course being a good guest I deferred to him right away, whilst Reuters laughed. Then the senior-looking naval officer came over and gave stripey shirt man a good bollocking, saying something along the lines of, "...now that really shouldn't have happened, should it?". Oh well, soldiers and machine guns are what make war machines interesting to photograph, right? I mean, there is nothing wrong with photographing guns pointing at Mui Wo, which are, of course, ensuring the region's stability and keeping the peace in Hong Kong. Is there? Anyway, I walked away alive.

Pent-up testoterone.

Gagging for it, these navy boys are lining up to get off the boat. Preparing to hit the girly bars of Wan Chai. Ladies of the night, get ready to be ravaged...

And finally, here's an unrelated image taken from the flight deck of the 'USS George Washington' that shows a passing container ship set against the Hong Kong sklyine. As usual, the air pollution screws up what, under normal atmospheric conditions, could be a quite a nice shot.

ALEX HOFFORD : HONG KONG CHINA PHOTOGRAPHER

All images and text © Alex Hofford / Image Solutions Ltd. 2011 | Web design in Hong Kong by Ugli © 2011