Top Chinese singer tours disputed South China Sea islands
BEIJING, China (UPDATED) – One of China's top folk singers is rocking her way across disputed territory in the South China Sea, serenading hundreds of troops and construction workers stationed there, Chinese media reported Thursday, May 5.
Song Zuying, who has performed with the likes of Canadian superstar Celine Dion, is part of an all-singing, all-dancing People's Liberation Army (PLA) entertainment tour of the Spratly Islands, reports said.
Footage of the troupe's performance broadcast on Chinese state television was the first to show the progress of construction on Fiery Cross Reef, one of the artificial islands China has built on outcrops also claimed by the Philippines, according to the Global Times.
"Building, roads, and lighthouses are beginning to take shape," it said.
Pictures showed Song in uniform, microphone in hand, surrounded by hard-hatted workers on one side and military personnel on the other.
The singer, who is said to hold the rank of rear admiral in the PLA, often appears in the country's New Year gala, considered the most watched television program in the world.
The Fiery Cross project was one of several by China that have raised tensions in the region, with Washington sending ships and planes into nearby waters and airspace in an attempt to counter what it has described as a threat to freedom of navigation.
Facilities on the island include runways capable of accommodating military aircraft, one of which landed on the reef in April, ostensibly to aid ailing construction staff.
China will shortly carry out annual naval combat drills in the area, Xinhua reported separately, as well as the eastern Indian Ocean and western Pacific, with 3 vessels leaving port on Wednesday to join the exercises.
The musical show by the 50 member troupe was the first of two in the Spratlys, according to an article in the state-owned China Youth Daily.
The performers arrived at the venue after a 40-hour trip aboard China's second-largest naval vessel, the Kunlun Shan, it said.
A construction worker at the event told the paper life on the reef "definitely isn't easy, but our nation remembers us," adding that the performance was "a type of respect to the workers, to us as individuals." – Rappler.com