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Hong Kong localism and independence

Lunar New Year fair poster leads to safety concerns about pro-independence activities

Police are investigating the source and reviewing deployment plans for the festival

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 January, 2017, 4:21pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 January, 2017, 11:00pm

Posters with the title “Take Back the Lunar New Year Fair”, found plastered outside the city’s largest market for the festival in Victoria Park, have prompted police to review risks and deployment plans over the holiday to guard against a repeat of last year’s Mong Kok riot, the Post has learned.

Initial investigations indicated the posters were glued to railings and lamp posts by a woman around the entrances of Victoria Park in Causeway Bay before being detected by authorities on Wednesday afternoon, sources said.

“Police are looking into whether pro-independence groups will cause trouble at the Lunar New Year fair,” one source said.

Two political parties – Youngspiration and the Hong Kong National Party – received letters from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department last week, informing them that the department believed they were planning pro-independence activities and themed items to sell.

The parties were banned from operating stalls at the fair over concerns about public order and safety.

The “Take Back the Lunar New Year Fair” poster showed a billboard amid a backdrop of flames with information about a possible gathering place and starting time for activities.

Text in English and Chinese on the poster read “Lunar New Year Fair Entrance”, while another line stated in Chinese “On the night of Lunar New Year’s eve, 11pm”. There were no further details or any indication of who was behind the poster.

Expressing concern over the possibility of a stampede, another security source said: “It will be very crowded at the fair the night before the Lunar New Year. Any minor trouble can escalate into a major event leading to large amounts of casualties.”

He said officers were still investigating the source of the posters and searching for the woman who put them up.

The force’s operations wing is conducting risk assessment and gathering intelligence before finalising deployment plans.

Sources said it was possible that the poster was a decoy planned by radical localists, who wanted to divert police attention while they targeted another location.

The force’s intelligence unit also indicated that a pro-independence political party had called for supporters on social media to head to the Mong Kok pedestrian junction at Sai Yeung Choi Street South on the eve of the Lunar New Year to sell items.

The Post was informed last week that about 1,500 police officers would be deployed at three venues – the Lunar New Year fair in Victoria Park, the Mong Kok area, and Sham Shui Po’s Kweilin Street during the festive season.

Deputy police commissioner, Lau Yip-shing, said on Tuesday that the force would closely monitor activities across the city and come up with contingency plans to deal with crowd management during the period.

“Based on our intelligence gathering and risk assessment, we will reserve contingency response resources to deal with any untoward incident,” he said.

During the 10-hour riot in Mong Kok last year, protesters lit fires at 22 locations and dug up about 2,000 bricks from pavements to hurl at police, injuring nearly 100 officers.