Huge police crackdown not linked to Hong Kong handover events, officials claim
Joint operation between HK, mainland and Macau police sees 8,000 arrests
Police across the region made almost 8,000 arrests in three months as part of a marathon cross-border crackdown ahead of the visit by state leaders for the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty.
The first phase of the joint operation, codenamed Thunderbolt 17, between police authorities in Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong province ran from March 5 to June 10, aiming to curb the illegal activities of triads and organised crime syndicates.
In Hong Kong, a total of 3,618 people, including 1,135 mainlanders and 152 non-ethnic Chinese, were arrested for various offences such as drug trafficking, gambling and money laundering.
Backed by customs and immigration officers, police raided more than 6,400 premises, including pubs, vice dens, gambling venues and massage parlours, across the city and seized imitation firearms, illegal drugs, contraband cigarettes and obscene optical discs.
On the mainland, officers arrested 2,270 suspects in Guangdong province, while a total of 5,097 people were brought in for questioning in Macau, resulting in 1,782 prosecutions.
The second phase of the annual operation – the longest of its kind since 2000, will kick off in the second half of the year and is expected to last for three months.
President Xi Jinping is expected to pay a three-day visit to Hong Kong between June 29 and July 1 for the handover celebration. He is likely to leave the city after he has sworn in the city’s next chief executive, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
Chief Superintendent Man Tat-shing, who heads the city’s Organised Crime and Triad Bureau, confirmed this year’s operation was the longest of its kind, but denied this was linked to the celebration or visit by state leaders.
Man said the operation was a response to a growing trend of triad and organised crime in the region but that Hong Kong’s crime rate was not alarming and triad-related crime had remained steady over the years.
But a forcer insider said it was a “clean-up” operation to prepare the arrival of state leaders later this month.
He said past operations, conducted annually, were typically carried out before National Day in October and lasted one to three months. In 2014, the annual crackdown was suspended due to the pro-democracy Occupy protests.
To protect the state leaders during their visit to Hong Kong, more than a third of the 29,000 strong force is understood to be deployed.
“There is currently no specific intelligence to suggest Hong Kong is likely to be a target of terrorist attacks. Our terrorist threat level remains moderate,” a police spokesman said.
In the wake of terror attacks in Europe, the city’s force has been ramping up security precautions.
Last month, it mounted a series of anti-terror drills across the city to ensure officers are ready for any scenario.
Heavily armed terrorists ramming a van into a crowded carnival was one of the scenarios more than 300 officers trained for in the Kowloon Bay headquarters of the city’s auxiliary police force.