Wednesday 13 December 2017

China flexes military muscle during Xi visit to Hong Kong

Show of force: Chinese president Xi Jinping inspects troops of the People's Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison (AP)
Show of force: Chinese president Xi Jinping inspects troops of the People's Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison (AP)
Chinese president Xi Jinping inspects troops of the People's Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison (AP)

President Xi Jinping has inspected troops based in Hong Kong as he asserts Chinese authority over the former British colony brought under Beijing's control 20 years ago.

Mr Xi rode in an open-top military vehicle past rows of soldiers lined up on an airstrip on his visit to the People's Liberation Army garrison.

He called out "Salute all the comrades" and "Salute to your dedication" as he rode by each of the 20 troop formations.

Armoured personnel carriers, combat vehicles, helicopters and other pieces of military hardware were arrayed behind the troops.

It was a rare display of the Chinese military's might in Hong Kong, where it normally maintains a low-key presence.

Mr Xi, wearing a buttoned-up black jacket in the steamy heat, spent about 10 minutes reviewing the troops at the Shek Kong base in Hong Kong's suburban New Territories.

Hong Kong was granted the freedom to run most of its affairs after it came under China's control under the "one country, two systems" principle.

However, Beijing is in charge of the city's defence and foreign affairs and the troops based in the city are deployed from the mainland.

His three-day visit to mark the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover, when Britain gave up control of the Asian financial hub to China on July 1 1997, includes presiding at the inauguration of the city's new leader Carrie Lam on Saturday..

Authorities have stepped up security as they brace for protests.

Police arrested 26 pro-democracy activists, including young activist leader Joshua Wong, for staging a sit-in on Wednesday evening at a giant flower sculpture given as a present by Beijing near the hotel complex where Mr Xi is staying.

They were later freed on bail.

Police said on Friday the activists had not been charged but must report back in September.

AP

Press Association

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