President Xi Jinping inspected troops based in Hong Kong today as he asserts Chinese authority over the former British colony China took control of 20 years ago. Xi rode in an open-top jeep 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. Armored 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. 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. It’s part of a 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.
Authorities have ramped up security as they brace for protests. Police arrested 26 pro-democracy activists for staging a sit-in Wednesday evening at a giant flower sculpture given as a present by Beijing near the hotel complex where Xi is staying. The activists were all later released on bail but without being charged, local broadcaster RTHK said, with some not freed until early Friday, more than 30 hours after they were detained.