'Thousands' of police to take to Hong Kong streets for New Year celebrations

Force says deployment will distinguish between revellers and protesters

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 December, 2014, 2:17am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 December, 2014, 9:17am

The city's first post-Occupy New Year celebrations tomorrow are expected to be marked by a strong police deployment to observe and make "judgments" on distinguishing revellers from pro-democracy protesters.

Police declined to disclose the number of officers that will line up on both sides of Victoria Harbour on New Year's Eve, saying only that it would be "sufficient".

But a police source said more than 3,000 would be on duty across the city - about 1,000 more than were deployed over Christmas - mainly because the Victoria Harbour fireworks, which tend to attract bigger crowds.

Officers, most of them from the anti-triad squad, would keep an eye on so-called "shopping" protesters in Mong Kok, the source said, adding that the force would continue its Solar Peak operation, devised to handle the Occupy Central sit-in protests.

Any unlawful activity, such as obstructing the flow of traffic, would be met with necessary and "resolute action", Lee Man-yiu, acting superintendent for traffic control on Hong Kong Island, said yesterday.

"We will do our best to help residents who are welcoming in the New Year," he said. "As to any unlawful acts, police will take resolute enforcement action. Police at the scene will make proper judgments as to whether residents are holding a celebratory event or an illegal act."

The force was responding to rumours that protesters might stage more "shopping" demonstrations, as they have been for the last few weeks since the Occupy site in Mong Kok was cleared.

Groups of "shoppers" block the already crowded footpaths to continue pressing their democracy message under the guise of shopping.

Over the Christmas break, 49 protesters were arrested in clashes with the police. The Complaints Against Police Office received 1,972 Occupy-related complaints up to December 15 - with 106 cases reportable.

Police estimate at least 370,000 revellers will turn out on Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon for the night's celebrations, despite both Times Square in Causeway Bay and Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui confirming last week that they had called off their major countdown events.

Road closures start from 4pm in Causeway Bay and 8pm in West Kowloon.

Streets around Lan Kwai Fong will be closed to traffic at 6pm, while roads near another viewing point for the fireworks, the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, will close at 9pm.