Attack saw tightening of security in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 September, 2011, 12:00am
 

The repercussions of the 9/11 terrorist attacks were felt all over the world and Hong Kong was no exception. Today, a decade on, city life has changed subtly.

Immediately following 9/11, Hong Kong companies wanted security reviews of their facilities and increased surveillance around their buildings, according to Douglas Renwick, country president of Securitas in Hong Kong. Staff were trained in terrorism awareness and reporting requirements. And new buildings being built were reviewed to ensure that if hit by planes, the structures would remain standing.'9/11 was a tragic incident and a real wake up call for everybody about what terrorism looked like. It was a real sea change in what governments had expected terrorists to do. And because of that I think most governments and large enterprises have revisited and rethought what security looks like,' Mike Groves, country manager for Hill and Associates, a security firm, in Hong Kong. 'But probably most people in Hong Kong wouldn't notice the difference.'

Compared with 10 years ago, liquids could only be taken on flights in small quantities, travel to high risk countries like the US and Australia require additional checks and random searches have increased, according to Sidney Chau Foo-cheong, executive director of Aviation Security Company, which overseas all of Hong Kong International Airport's security.

But for all the invisible changes, 9/11 is not in the forefront of the public consciousness.

Security policies were upgraded to fall in line with new regulations.

'There are so many things that go on in the world every day including terrorist attacks. You read about them in the newspaper but you generally don't think you're terribly vulnerable here in Hong Kong,' one Hong Kong based commercial pilot who flew regularly to North America, including New York, in the last decade, said.

'That's probably to do with the political climate here. We don't have a foreign policy, we don't affect other people in other places and therefore they're not angry at us.'

Another experienced commercial pilot lamented the fact that the door to the flight deck now has to be closed to passengers. 'Since September 11 one of my greatest joys was no longer possible. We used to accept visitors to the flight deck and sharing your intriguing job with kids and adults alike was a great delight,' the pilot said. 'Now we are bogged down with procedures. That professional carefree feel has faded.'

Muslims around the world suffered from distrust and attention, but not so much in Hong Kong.

'The only thing I observed was the awareness of Islam among the local community and foreigners,' Saeed Uddin, chairman of the Incorporated Trustees of Islamic Community Fund in Hong Kong, said.

If anything 9/11 raised their profile, with the Hong Kong Muslim community - who Uddin says are united against Islamic fundamentalism - beginning a regular inter-faith dialogue with the Jewish, Christian and Hindu groups which continues today on a bi-monthly basis.

That is, unless you had a personal link to the attacks. Teresa Wong Nga-kum, a US national now retired in Hong Kong, grew up in Manhattan, where her eldest son now lives. She was in Beijing at the time of the attacks.

'I think it's the most horrible thing that has happened in the last ten years but I guess that goes back to my special attachment to the twin towers. We lived in Chinatown and from the kitchen window you could see the twin towers. Now when I go back to my parent's apartment they are gone forever.'

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