Chinese leader draws sneers in Hong Kong

HONG KONG - Chinese president Hu Jintao was the object of sneers and ridicule from Hong Kongers Saturday, as he prepared to mark the 15th anniversary of the territory's handover amid unusually tight security.

On the second day of Hu's visit to the former British colony, which returned to China in 1997, the official Facebook page of the Hong Kong chief executive was flooded with anti-Beijing comments.

"Get out of Hong Kong!" one writer told the Communist party and the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

Another said that Beijing was "really out of touch with HKers. Can't blame... them, dictators care not, know not."

The security arrangements for Hu's visit have been a particular topic of comment, with one user comparing them to "war time" measures.

Hu said on his arrival: "In the coming two days, I hope to be able to walk more, see more and personally feel the development of Hong Kong, understand the life and expectations of the Hong Kong people."

But giant barricades have been erected around Hu's five-star hotel and a convention hall where key celebrations, including the inauguration of the city's new leader, will be held.

Police manned every intersection and building entrance nearby, part of an enhanced security presence visible around the city.

The blue and white barriers are more than two metres (6.5 feet) high - a size last used during protests against the World Trade Organization in Hong Kong in 2005 - and are likely to defy Hu's expressed wish.

Metal fences set up to keep potential demonstrators in a so-called "petition zone" and "protest zone" are so far away that Hu and his delegation are unlikely to see or hear any protests, a fixture of Hong Kong's daily life.

"Are we celebrating the handover anniversary or staging a war?" one Hong Konger wrote on the social networking site Facebook.

Others users said the Asian financial hub had been turned into a "city of barricades", while some likened the measures to the Great Wall of China and the Berlin Wall.

"The Berlin Wall separated East and West Germany, let's hope this wall of barricades can separate Hong Kong from China forever," one user wrote, underscoring a sense of growing discontent among Hong Kongers toward Beijing.

The right to protest is part of the cherished freedoms enshrined in the "one country, two systems" model that has applied to Hong Kong since its return to Chinese rule.

The city of seven million people maintains a semi-autonomous status with its own legal and financial system.

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