Nearly 2,000 Hong Kong police on election duty in case of political unrest

Security to be stepped up at central government’s liaison office, as well as at polling centre in Wan Chai

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 March, 2017, 6:00pm
UPDATED : Friday, 24 March, 2017, 9:01am

Around 1,800 police officers – 600 more than the number of people who will vote – will be on duty to deal with any possible unrest by radical protesters during Hong Kong’s leadership election on Sunday.

Security will be tight around the polling station in the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, as well as at Beijing’s liaison office in Sai Wan on the day of the poll, sources said.

“It is possible some people will be unhappy with the result of the election and march to the liaison office to protest,” a force insider said. “We have to ensure officers are available and ready to counter any ad hoc incident.”

He said up to 1,500 officers would be on the ground to guard against any disturbances at the two sites on Sunday.

“There will be another 300 officers who will be on standby and mobilised to combat any sudden occurrence,” the source said.

However, until yesterday, there was no indication that anyone planned to cause trouble, he said.

The two front runners in the leadership race are former No 2 official Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, seen as Beijing’s preferred choice, and ex-financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah. The third candidate is retired judge Woo Kwok-hing.

The 1,194 members of the Election Committee, mostly pro-establishment voters, will pick the winner.

The first round of voting on Sunday will start at 9am and end at 11am in the third-floor Grand Hall of the Convention and Exhibition Centre. If there is no winner, there will be a second round of voting, from 2pm to 3pm, with a possible third round between 7pm and 8pm.

Ferries will be on standby in a contingency plan to transport the three candidates and electors from the polling centre if protesters cause chaos on land, with at least six marine police launches to provide escorts.

The force’s top management finalised the plans at a meeting on Wednesday. But sources said police were still gathering intelligence on the chances of trouble, and the deployment would be reviewed if necessary.

This weekend, the Civil Human Rights Front will organise two marches to protest against Beijing’s “interference” in the “small-circle” election.

They will march on Saturday at 5pm from East Point Road in Causeway Bay to the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai and on Sunday at 9.30am from Hennessy Road outside the Family Planning Association office to the election venue.

The group expected several thousand people to join. Organisers said they would not seek police permission for the two protests.

In November, violence broke out outside the liaison office during an overnight protest against Beijing’s intervention in the Legislative Council oath controversy. During the clashes, two female officers were injured.