VIP protection squad adopts anti-terror tactics for Xi Jinping’s Hong Kong visit
Senior inspector says all 59 members of Force Escort Group will be deployed during President Xi Jinping’s visit; they may work 15 to 20-hour shifts
A Hong Kong police squad responsible for protecting the vehicles of state leaders has developed anti-terror tactics based on recent overseas truck attacks, ahead of President Xi Jinping’s visit.
Police said the Force Escort Group would guard the cars used by Xi, who arrives in Hong Kong on June 29 for a three-day visit to attend celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the city’s handover to China and the swearing in of the new government on July 1.
However, the security group as recently as last week said it had yet to be informed of its exact tasks.
Explaining some of the security arrangements in place, Senior Inspector Steven Chong Kam-yan said all 59 members of the group would join Xi’s convoy on motorcycles or in vehicles.
“Based on previous experience, we will employ the highest-level escort mode,” Chong said. “It requires all members to be there.”
Escort duties typically involve police motorcycles forming an arrow ahead of the VIP’s car.
Chong added the group had made plans with the force’s VIP Protection Unit following deadly truck attacks in Europe which resulted in numerous deaths.
“After terrorist attacks happen in other countries, we analyse their tactics, time and location,” he said.
“We keep our techniques up to date, which will prevent similar incidents from happening in Hong Kong.”
For more than 20 years, the escort group has been protecting vehicles used by central government and foreign leaders during their visits to Hong Kong.
In May 2016, Chong was one of the officers who stopped Joshua Wong Chi-fung when he and another four activists tried to approach the vehicles used by Beijing’s No 3 leader, Zhang Dejiang, at the exit of the Eastern Harbour Crossing.
The five were arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct in a public place and obstructing police officers in the execution of their duty. They were later released.
“We always have these elements in our regular training, like how we should respond when the road is suddenly blocked,” Chong said.
He said the escort group might also make a U-turn and go for another route if the presidential convoy encountered protests.
Watch: Elite police units conduct anti-terror drill ahead of China leaders’ visit
The Force Escort Group comprising traffic police was set up in 1986. In the early years, the team carried out escort duties for the British queen and other members of the royal family.
It also protects motorcades carrying valuable artefacts or dangerous goods. It completed 102 missions last year.
Chong said the greatest challenge in escorting state leaders was working out routes and strategies at short notice as itineraries could easily change.
Members of the group may have to work shifts lasting as long as 20 hours throughout a visit, Chong said.
Sergeant Kenneth Tse Wai-kit, who has been working with the team for 11 years, said officers in the escort group had to be familiar with all roads and junctions in the city.
One time he had to take a VIP on a long detour because the lunch banquet planned for the individual was not yet ready.
“We had to spend 15 minutes more on the road without telling the person that we were taking a longer route,” Tse said.
“It can be quite embarrassing. We need to ensure the pride of VIPs is not harmed.”