Hong Kong police hope to have anti-riot vehicles ready in time for 20th anniversary of handover to China
Tendering and vetting for the three crowd control vehicles, costing HK$9 million each and fitted with water cannons, was finished in June, No 2 police chief says
The police force’s second top man in charge of operations hopes three anti-riot vehicles equipped with water cannons will be ready to be deployed and deal with any eventuality during the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty in July next year.
Local media have reported that President Xi Jinping is expected to visit the city to celebrate the event and administer the oath of office to the new chief executive.
Deputy Police Commissioner Tony Wong Chi-hung said the tendering and vetting procedure for the purchase of the three crowd management vehicles at a cost of about HK$9 million each was completed several months ago.
Asked if the water cannons could be deployed during the 20th anniversary, Wong said this would be good, but added: “At this stage, there is no exact timetable when it will enter service.”
He said it would take time to carry out tests and assessments and that the force was still studying the circumstances and conditions for use of the water cannons.
When asked whether the new gear would replace the use of tear gas, Wong said: “It will offer an extra option for frontline officers to consider.”
The force proposed the purchase in the government’s annual budget announced in February last year, two months after the 79-day Occupy protests ended. The force invited bids for the supply of three vehicles late last year and the tendering and vetting procedure was completed in June.
In March last year, then police chief Andy Tsang Wai-hung denied that a bid to seek HK$27 million to add water cannons to the force’s armoury was a response to the Occupy protests.
In a written reply to lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin in March on whether police would review its equipment after February’s Mong Kok riot – in which protesters hurled bricks at police and more than 130 people were injured – security chief Lai Tung-kwok said “specialised crowd management vehicles can effectively disperse persons who stage violent charging acts, create a safe distance between these persons and police officers, reduce the chance of injury to them and police officers, and provide the police with an additional operational option”.
Radical localist groups and advocates of Hong Kong independence, an increasingly influential force in the city, have been linked to the riot.
During the Occupy protests, the force was criticised for using tear gas in a fruitless attempt to disperse protesters who occupied the main roads outside the government headquarters in Admiralty.
Tony Wong said police fired tear gas because their cordon line was under fierce attack and could not hold for much longer. He said the Occupy protests were one of the biggest challenges he had encountered during his 35 years with the force.
After the protests began in September 2014, Wong said no one knew when they would end. Seeing that main roads were occupied, social order could not be restored and colleagues were exhausted after working round the clock, he said: “At that time, I felt sad. How had Hong Kong come to this?”
After 35 years in the force, Wong, 57, will turn in his badge on his last working day on Friday and then go on pre-retirement leave.
Wong said he had no plans to work in the private sector or enter politics.
“I will do what I had no chance to do in the past,” he said, adding that he would learn to play a musical instrument, learn languages and do voluntary work.