Mong Kok riot

Hong Kong police purchase 400 new tactical suits ahead of July visit of state leaders

Sources say new body gear for officers come after review of violent event and in lead-up to security boost for 20th anniversary of handover

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 February, 2017, 10:55pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 February, 2017, 9:13am

The Mong Kok riot last year in which about 100 officers were injured, has prompted police to buy 400 new tactical suits ahead of the July visit of state leaders.

The suits, each weighing less than 5.5kg, should protect wearers from heat-related injuries, with tailor-made padding to also defend against hard objects hurled by rioters, sources said.

News of the supply of 400 tactical suits to the police force was published in the government gazette on Friday and tenders will have to be submitted by March 16.

Delivery of the tactical suits should be made “within 90 days from the date of acceptance of offer”, according to a document issued by police chief Stephen Lo Wai-chung.

But sources could not confirm whether the suits would be ready for frontline officers before the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty in July.

President Xi Jinping is expected to visit the city to mark the event and swear in the new chief executive.

One source said the purchase of the suits was recommended in the wake of the Mong Kok riot during which protesters hurled bricks, set fires and clashed with police.

But he added that the new suits were not specifically purchased for the coming July 1 anniversary.

Since the city was rocked by the night of violence in Mong Kok, police have tested new mid-range crowd control equipment such as rubber bullets and pepper balls, recommended by an internal subcommittee set up to review police arms, equipment and training.

Before Christmas last year, elite officers from the counterterrorism unit were deployed for the first time to carry out patrol duties on the railway network following global terrorist attacks.

A source said that there was no intelligence as yet to indicate that Hong Kong was in danger of a terrorist attack.

The 29,000-strong force is also set to hold its largest anti-terror drill to prepare for any eventuality during the visit of state leaders.

One source said the drill would comprise many officers from the police tactical unit and a large number of forces from other formations.

The Mong Kok riot broke out on the first night of the Lunar New Year in February last year when disputes escalated over a crackdown on illegal street food hawkers who originally operated in Kweilin Street.

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

More than 90 people have been arrested in connection with the clashes.

Officers from the organised crime and triad bureau are still searching for about 10 others.

During this year’s Lunar New Year, there was no trouble in the Mong Kok area as hundreds of officers were deployed to guard against a repeat of the incident.