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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 November 2007, 15:32 GMT
China soldiers 'must return kit'
Mannequins wearing the new Chinese army uniforms
The new uniforms were unveiled in July
Chinese soldiers are no longer allowed to take home their uniforms after they leave the armed service, state media has reported.

Officials said the move would stop new uniforms being misused or ending up on the black market, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The order ends a tradition of allowing former soldiers to keep their uniforms to "commemorate their army life".

It is part of a series of reforms aimed at modernising China's army.

For decades, recruits finishing their mandatory military service have been allowed to keep their uniforms, and people wearing faded military uniforms are a common sight.

Modernisation

In the 1950s, soldiers in the People's Liberation Army (PLA) wore second-hand uniforms to carry on the revolutionary spirit of "plain living and hard struggle".

The rules were then relaxed and "demobilised" personnel were allowed to keep their clothes to "commemorate their army life".

New recruits in  Qinghai Province, China (12/01/2007)
All Chinese citizens are required to undergo national service

A PLA source told Xinhua news agency that the tradition meant many uniforms were "lost in society or casually worn by security guards or migrant workers".

Smart new uniforms were introduced in July, and officials are keen to ensure they are not abused.

Commanders also say they want to make sure the new army fatigues are passed on to units who have yet to be issued with them.

There are 2.3 million troops currently serving in the PLA, making it one of the world's largest employers.

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