The Chinese army on Friday deployed its largest ever number of troops in Hong Kong during President Xi Jinping’s visit to mark the 20th anniversary of the UK’s return to the territory to Beijing. Xi reviewed the troops during a parade on Friday morning in which around 3,000 soldiers from around 20 squadrons participated, reports Efe news. The deployment also included more than 60 armored vehicles, 12 helicopters, and anti-aircraft missile units, according to local Hong Kong media. Xi’s visit to the People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong aims to reinforce his image in the territory, following the emergence of new pro-democracy and pro-independence movements.
While the President will adhere to his strictly official agenda involving meetings with local government officials and visits to government-related sectors, pro-democracy activists are trying to demonstrate against his visit, under the watchful eye of the authorities. Xi arrived on Thursday when police had already detained several pro-democracy activists over occupying an iconic monument in the city, where the Chinese President is expected to preside over an event on Saturday. The activists were released from custody on Friday and are expected to hold protests demanding Xi to grant greater freedoms to the region along with the unconditional release of Chinese dissident and Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo.
The dissident was recently transferred from prison to a hospital to be treated for terminal liver cancer and kept under surveillance. This is Xi’s first official trip to the territory to mark 20 years of Chinese governance of Hong Kong. When Hong Kong was returned in 1997, Beijing pledged to govern under a “one country, two systems” principle, where the city was given greater autonomy compared to the mainland, including freedom of the press and judicial independence.