Date
15 December 2017
The PLA's Hong Kong garrison has stayed low-key for the most part, but observers believe that could change in the coming years. Photo: PLA Daily
The PLA's Hong Kong garrison has stayed low-key for the most part, but observers believe that could change in the coming years. Photo: PLA Daily

Why blind obedience isn’t always right if you’re in the military

In his numerous speeches on national defense and the management of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Chinese leader Xi Jinping has repeatedly laid emphasis on one thing: absolute loyalty.

Basically, what he is reminding is that the military should carry out to the fullest extent each and every order sent by the Communist Party, and that the various army personnel are required to unquestioningly follow the orders of their superiors.

Now, no one will argue about the need for absolute discipline and obedience among the PLA’s ranks. But what if a subordinate is asked to follow a wrong order against his better judgment? This is the dilemma that has confronted the junior ranks from time to time.  

An army newspaper reported last week that a PLA Hong Kong garrison corvette captain once refused to follow orders from his supervisor when his ship was cruising in the Victoria Harbor, helping avert a deadly collision with a passenger vessel.

According to the PLA Daily, the incident happened on July 1 last year, when there was pouring rain in Hong Kong brought by Hurricane Rumbia and the visibility was extremely low. While the corvette was sailing in the harbor, its radar detected a large vessel in close vicinity.

But the vessel soon disappeared from the radar screen due to the adverse weather. Subsequently, a general on board the corvette ordered that the military ship maintain speed and turn right. However, the captain refused to obey the command and insisted that the engine be idled for the sake of safety.

Not surprisingly, the general was said to have been very offended by the subordinate’s decision. But things cleared up quickly as a large ferry soon passed by on the right side of the corvette. It became apparent to everyone that if the captain had obeyed his senior’s order as he is always expected to do, there would have a been a major tragedy and the Hong Kong media would have run headlines like “PLA corvette hits ferry in Victoria Harbor” the next day.

So, what’s the lesson in all this? It is that blind obedience isn’t always good even if you are in the military.  

– Contact the writer at [email protected]

RC

EJ Insight writer

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