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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

China To Boost Troops at Handover

HONG KONG -- China will quickly stamp its rule on Hong Kong with a show of force -- 4,000 People's Liberation Army troops crossing the border on ships, helicopters and armor just hours after the British handover on July 1.


Future leader Tung Chee-hwa's office announced late Friday that the troops, spearheaded by armored cars, would arrive at dawn. The timing ensures that they will sweep in as the city slumbers following all-night handover parties.


Hong Kong's stock market had just closed at a record high on the last trading day of British rule, underlining a wave of public optimism for a prosperous future under China.


Outgoing Governor Chris Patten condemned the move as "a most appalling signal to send to the people of Hong Kong," who are still chilled by images of armored personnel carriers and green-uniformed troops used in the massacre of unarmed students around Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989.


Britain's Foreign Office said it may send a "negative signal" to the world.


Although Beijing will be responsible for Hong Kong's defense, and was expected at least to match Britain's 10,000-strong force, few had expected it to risk inflaming local sensitivities so rapidly with such a blunt military statement.


"We don't need so many, and we don't need them coming in such a fashion, by air, land and sea," said legislator Emily Lau, an outspoken critic of Beijing. "I don't think it's necessary, but they like to act the bully."


Washington took the announcement in stride. "They've always said they were going to put Chinese troops where the British troops were. That's not anything unusual. It's their territory," said a White House official, who declined to be identified.


Earlier Friday, kilted soldiers of the Black Watch bade farewell to 156 years of colonial rule over Hong Kong with a skirl of bagpipes.