Hong Kong police kick off marathon cross-border crime crackdown ahead of Xi Jinping visit in July

Post learns 29,000-strong force to also hold largest ever anti-terror drill in May to ensure officers ready for any scenario

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 March, 2017, 3:47pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 March, 2017, 6:33am

Police in Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong province have started a marathon cross-border crackdown on crime in the three jurisdictions ahead of visits by state leaders later this year.

The joint operation, code-named “Thunderbolt”, was launched on Monday and is to last six months – the longest of its kind since 2000.

Past operations, conducted annually, were typically initiated before National Day in October and lasted one to three months.

President Xi Jinping is expected to visit Hong Kong in July to mark the 20th anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese sovereignty. China’s leader is also due to swear in the city’s new chief executive, who will be elected on March 26, and review the local garrison of the People’s Liberation Army.

One source said the police force’s elite search team would inspect every venue, such as hotels and the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, that state leaders will frequent this year.

In addition to combating triad gangs and organised crime, officers are to raid locations such as guest houses being used as hideouts in the three jurisdictions, a force insider said.

Asked whether anyone from the country’s restive Xinjiang region, which has been troubled by separatist violence, could pose a threat, the source said: “It is possible. We have to guard against any possible threats.”

But he reiterated there was no intelligence to suggest Hong Kong had been targeted for attack.

The annual “clean-up” operation is coordinated by Hong Kong’s Organised Crime and Triad Bureau with support from the six regions that the city’s police force is divided into. The annual exercise was suspended in 2014 due to the Occupy protests.

To prepare for the handover anniversary and state leaders’ visits, the force set up a steering committee that last week held its first meeting to discuss seven major areas including support, IT equipment and transport.

It is understood the 29,000-strong force will hold its largest ever anti-terror drill in May to ensure officers are ready for any scenario. In June, there will be another major exercise at the force’s training ground in Fanling to test riot control measures and new equipment such as pepper balls and rubber bullets.

Another source said it was possible that 400 new tactical suits would be ready for use in the drill. The Mong Kok riot in February last year, in which about 100 officers were injured, prompted the force to buy the armoured body gear. Each suit weighs less than 5.5kg, and is supposed to protect officers from heat-related injuries. Tailor-made padding also shields wearers from hard objects such as hurled bricks.

Last month the elite police escort team conducted a five-day motorcycle VIP escort exercise.

Before Christmas, officers from the counterterrorism unit were deployed for the first time to patrol the city’s railway network following terrorist attacks around the globe.

Following the Mong Kok riot, police have tested new mid-range crowd-control equipment such as pepper balls, as recommended by an internal subcommittee set up to review arms, equipment and training.