Riot drill for prison staff in weeks before WTO
But annual training course is not linked to December meeting, says department
The Correctional Services Department will give its frontline officers riot and emergency handling training in the weeks leading up to the World Trade Organisation meeting in Hong Kong in December.
The department will be responsible for the detention of troublemakers arrested during anti-globalisation protests, but a department spokesman played down the connection between the two events.
He stressed the training was not part of their preparations for the protests, while also pointing out that a similar course was also held last year.
The seven-week course is scheduled for October and should finish before the WTO ministerial conference begins on December 13. The exact date for the beginning of the course has yet to be set, the department's spokesman said.
'Those who graduate from the course will be posted to the Escort and Support Group which provides services to various institutions including the escort of prisoners and giving tactical support to penal institutions in case of emergency,' he said.
Officers selected for training would be taught various riot handling topics including self-defence, weapons, tactical and physical training, and 'scenario' exercises.
Candidates must have had a good service record for the past three years, and must pass stringent fitness requirements set by the department aiming to test their upper body power, muscular strength, agility, co-ordination and endurance.
'A very high level of physical fitness is expected as the advanced tactical training is strenuous and prolonged,' the spokesman said.
The response from prison staff was good, he added, with more than 130 applications for 30 places.
Department sources had said earlier that they were preparing for an influx of potentially violent protesters during the period of the WTO conference.
More than 100 officers already trained in handling riots would be deployed to take protesters to Victoria Prison and oversee them in custody. They are part of an emergency response team set up after the riot at the Hei Ling Chau drug rehabilitation centre in 2000.
The department was also understood to be making contingency plans for extreme acts, such as hunger strikes or suicide attempts by detained protesters.
Up to 70 per cent of schools on Hong Kong Island have confirmed the suspension of classes on December 13, the opening day of the conference.
Companies with headquarters in Wan Chai have been warned not to schedule important deals during the meeting while police prepare for possible violence.
Companies have been told to assess the security risks not only to themselves, but also to neighbouring firms that might be targets of anti-globalisation activists.