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Hong Kong handover 20th anniversary

Details revealed of massive Hong Kong police operation to protect visiting Chinese leaders

About 10,000 officers will be deployed to protect officials, including President Xi Jinping, during the 20th anniversary of the 1997 handover

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 May, 2017, 9:58pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 May, 2017, 3:34pm

More than a third of the entire Hong Kong Police Force will be deployed to protect state leaders during their visit next month to mark the 20th anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese ­sovereignty, the Post has learned.

Sources described the deployment as the biggest police operation since the 1997 handover.

The news comes as the 29,000-strong force is also due to mount its largest five-day anti-terror drill, codenamed “Hardshield”, next week to ensure officers are ready for any scenario, including terrorist attacks.

President Xi Jinping is expected to pay a three-day visit to Hong Kong for the handover ­celebrations.

Xi is also due to swear in the city’s next chief executive, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, on July 1 and review the local garrison of the People’s Liberation Army.

But the sources said there was no intelligence to suggest Hong Kong had been specifically targeted for attack and the terrorism threat level remained ­“moderate”.

It is understood that officers from the force’s elite squads such as the Special Duties Unit – known as the “Flying Tigers” – the VIP Protection Unit, Counter ­Terrorism and Internal Security Division, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau and the Airport Security Unit will be among about 10,000 officers to be deployed on the ground and on standby around the clock during the state leaders’ visit.

One source said the number also included officers from the ­Police Tactical Unit, crime squads and intelligence units. Cadets from the police college will also be deployed to help carry out security checks at venues that the state leaders will visit.

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“More than 1,000 auxiliary ­police officers will be assigned to ensure sufficient manpower to patrol and maintain order on the streets,” he said.

Another source said officers from the Special Duties Unit would be on board a Government Flying Service helicopter to offer aerial protection along the routes of official motorcades.

“Snipers will be stationed on the roof of buildings around the hotel where the leaders stay,” he said, adding that huge plastic ­barriers filled with water would be erected outside the hotel to ­prevent car bomb attacks.

He said the force’s search team would inspect every venue that the leaders would visit.

As the force was still gathering intelligence, the deployment would be finalised next month, the sources said.

Officers from the counter­terrorism unit will be trained to deal with suicide bombers, ­handle bombs planted by ­terrorists and hostage-taking ­scenarios during next week’s exercise, which will be held in the headquarters of the Hong Kong auxiliary police force in Kowloon Bay.

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Later this month, officers from the Airport Security Unit will hold another anti-terror drill at Chek Lap Kok with the Aviation Security Company and Airport Authority.

Next month, there will be another major exercise at the force’s training ground in Fanling to test riot control measures and new equipment.

It is unclear whether 400 new tactical suits designed to protect officers from heat-related injuries and objects thrown at them such as bricks will be ready for use ­during the exercise.

The Mong Kok riot in February last year, in which about 100 ­officers were injured, prompted the force to buy the protective gear.