In a first for Hong Kong police and MTR, anti-terrorism officers patrol city’s railway network
Deployment made before July visit by Chinese leaders and in response to global attacks targeting public transport
The Hong Kong Police Force’s anti-terrorism officers have been deployed to patrol the city’s railway network for the first time to beef up security in response to global terrorist attacks and ahead of a visit by Chinese leaders, the Post has learned.
The revelation of upgraded security comes as the 29,000-strong force soon holds its largest ever anti-terror drill to ensure readiness for any eventuality during the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty in July, police insiders said.
“During the drill, officers will have to deal with attacks taking place in different locations simultaneously,” a source said.
It was understood many platoons from the Police Tactical Unit and a large number of formations would take part in the drill.
But he made clear there was no intelligence to suggest Hong Kong had been targeted for a terrorist attack. Police said the city’s terrorism threat level remained “moderate”.
As attacks against civilians around the world, including Chinese, rose last year, Hong Kong police boosted such patrols in the city, the source said.
Before the Christmas season, elite officers from the counterterrorism response unit (CTRU) were deployed for the first time to carry out patrol duties within the city’s railway system network, the source added. CTRU members undertake specialist training and learn how to handle explosives.
“Uniformed officers [from the CTRU] have been assigned to patrol the MTR,” he said.
Without revealing which MTR stations anti-terrorism officers would patrol, the source said the deployment was based on risk assessment results. It was understood Central MTR station was among the identified stations.
Anti-terrorism officers, each carrying a rucksack, are to patrol paid areas within the MTR system. In an apparent move to quell alarm, weapons such as MP5 sub-machine guns are not to be displayed during patrols.
The source declined to reveal what weapon the backpack contained. But he said it contained a first-aid kit.
Citing attacks overseas that targeted public transport, he said the deployment was necessary and that police had to guard against possible threats from Islamic State as well as Uygurs from the mainland’s restive Xinjiang region.
The force’s counterterrorism unit has carried out car patrols around the city at sensitive locations, prominent landmarks, financial districts and power plants. It had not previously entered MTR stations.
Another source said the high-visibility patrol was a “deterrent” meant to discourage terrorists from contemplating attacks.
Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai-chung said on Wednesday during his year-end briefing on the city’s 2016 crime situation that there was “no intelligence to indicate that Hong Kong is under imminent threat”.
However, citing terrorist attacks in Europe, America and South East Asia, he said he saw “an increasing threat to Hong Kong”.
“That is why we need extra manpower, especially in the frontline, to ensure that we’re safe,” he added.
During his final policy address on January 18, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying described, terrorist activities around the globe as having become “rampant”.
“We must be vigilant and stay alert,” Hong Kong’s top official said. “The government will work with the international community to further improve our anti-terrorism regime, and enhance our emergency training efforts and handling capacity.”
“We will amend legislation to further reduce the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing,” he added.