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Mong Kok riot

Hong Kong police to set up special team to handle terror attacks and large-scale protests

Deputy Police Commissioner Alfred Chau reveals that measure emerged from review carried out after Mong Kok riot; emergency unit will also be beefed up

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 8:03am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 12:12pm

Hong Kong police will set up a new 30-member contingency coordination team in two months to boost their capacity in handling major incidents like terror attacks, according to the city’s deputy police chief.

The establishment of the major incident bureau was recommended in the wake of last year’s Mong Kok riot when protesters hurled bricks, started fires and clashed with police, injuring more than 100 officers.

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The new team, to be headed by a senior superintendent, was “necessary” in view of the rising trend of terror attacks and disasters in other places, Deputy Police Commissioner Alfred Chau Kwok-leung said.

“The force has to prepare for danger in time of peace. We must improve adaptability especially in handling major incidents.”

Chau said the new bureau would be responsible for carrying out coordination work, formulating tactics and strategy and arranging training for frontline officers to enhance their capability and response in handling major incidents like terror attacks, large-scale protests and disasters.

Currently, officers from different formations are grouped together to form a temporary command centre to handle such incidents.

It is understood the new unit will also gather intelligence, study tactics used in overseas attacks and train officers using past scenarios.

The deputy police chief also said that in the next 12 months, the force’s emergency unit would be beefed up so that patrols could be stepped up.

It is understood more than 300 new officers will be added to the unit, which currently has fewer than 1,000. Its primary task is to deal with 999 calls and be the first responder for the likes of burglaries, robberies and violent crimes.

Chau said new posts would also be assigned to the elite organised crime and triad bureau to investigate major incidents.

In recent years, the bureau undertook investigations linked to the 79-day pro-democracy Occupy protests in 2014 and tracked down perpetrators of the Mong Kok riot.

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The measures were recommended by the force’s internal review committee chaired by Chau after the riot.

After some frontline police officers slammed the force for having inadequate gear, police bought 400 new tactical suits designed to protect officers from heat-related injuries and objects thrown at them.

The Mong Kok riot also prompted the force to buy new mid-range crowd control equipment such as anti-riot bullets – known as rubber rounds – and pepper balls designed for dealing with armed protesters in the event of mob violence.

The riot broke out on the first night of the Lunar New Year last year and lasted more than 10 hours. Protesters lit fires in 22 places and dug up about 2,000 bricks from pavements to throw at police.

The force set up an internal review committee immediately after the unrest to look into their operations, weapons and training.

The Junior Police Officers’ Association welcomed the new contingency coordination team, additional personnel and new gear, saying the measures would help upgrade the force’s capabilities and provide better protection to frontline officers.

After 39 years with the force, Chau, 57, who joined as a constable in 1978, will turn in his badge on his last working day on Friday and go on pre-retirement leave.

His advice to colleagues was to be “professional” and remain “politically neutral” while executing their duties.

He said he had no plan to work in the private sector, adding that he would learn to play the guitar, do more voluntary work and travel.