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The Obama administration earlier this year approved sales of Black Hawk helicopters, missile defenses and minesweeping warships, but has yet to rule on offering the F-16s.

PLA garrison

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has deployed between 4,000 and 8,000 troops to this former British colony, but the troops have remained hidden in this bustling financial metropolis.

The PLA headquarters is located right next to the city’s financial center in a building that used to be owned by the British army and once housed the offices of its intelligence service, MI-6.

China took control of Hong Kong in 1997 and has been quietly imposing its control, albeit indirectly, over the once democratic state. The main control mechanisms are the Chinese Communist Party liaison office, located in a new building along the waterfront in western Hong Kong, and the PLA, which in addition to its headquarters, has tanks and armored personnel carriers based in several locations, mainly on the mainland portion of Hong Kong.

China calls its arrangement in Hong Kong “one-country, two systems,” which it says will allow the vibrant capitalism of the city to continue.

However, Hong Kong is holding on to its status of China’s wealthiest city. It is financially controlled by several billionaire real estate developers, including Li Ka-shing, whose Hutchison Whampoa still owns port facilities at each end of the Panama Canal, in addition to other ports around the world.

A defense official said the PLA has kept a low profile since moving into Hong Kong and its senior leaders have rejected invitations from visiting U.S. admirals to meet, sending intelligence and security officials instead.