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China army stages startling parade in HK

HONG KONG -- China's secretive armed forces were put on full display in Hong Kong Friday as they staged a startling show of military might with helicopters and tanks for visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao.

The military inspection at the People's Liberation Army (PLA) barrack was among the first on Hu's agenda after he arrived at the southern Chinese city for a three-day visit to mark its 15th handover anniversary from Britain.

Standing on top of a truck, Hu paid tribute to over 3,200 troops at the Shek Kong PLA barrack, about 45 minutes from central Hong Kong, with a huge banner that read “Love the motherland, love Hong Kong,” and red flags waving in the background.

“Greetings comrades!” Hu, who was wearing a green uniform, shouted to the thousands of troops saluting him who responded by saying “Greetings President”.

“Thank you for your efforts comrades!” Hu added, to which the PLA members answered “serve the people”.

Hu, whose three-day visit is his last as president before a key leadership reshuffle, is expected to attend a series of events to mark the handover anniversary and to preside over the inauguration of the city's new leader Leung Chun-ying on Sunday.

The show of force, however, prompted criticism from netizens in Hong Kong, which retains a semi-autonomous status with its own legal and financial system as well as civil liberties not seen on the mainland after the 1997 handover.

“It feels like we are in North Korea,” a Hong Konger wrote on social networking site Facebook.

Prior to the military inspection, Hu held a closed-door meeting with outgoing Chief Executive Donald Tsang and thanked him for his service. The bow-tie wearing Tsang is stepping down after seven years in office.

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Chinese President Hu Jintao inspects People's Liberation Army soldiers at a camp in Hong Kong on Friday, June 29. Hu is in Hong Kong to preside over the inauguration of the territory's next leader on Sunday, July 1, the 15th anniversary of the southern Chinese city's handover to China. (AP)

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