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Legislative Council elections 2016

Hong Kong police stage major exercise to prepare for poll trouble

At least 5,000 officers will be deployed on polling day to forestall possible localist incidents

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 August, 2016, 10:38pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 August, 2016, 11:09am

Hong Kong police mounted an unprecedented election security exercise on Monday amid worries that pro-independence supporters may disrupt Sunday’s Legislative Council elections.

As it remains unclear whether radical localists will cause any trouble during the polls, hundreds of officers, who are on standby to deal with any eventuality on Sunday, will be stationed at major police stations in each police region to combat possible unrest, force insiders told the Post.

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It is understood police are concerned that radical groups might disrupt the elections over the disqualification of some localist candidates.

“There is a risk of unrest [during the elections] because causing trouble is one of their propaganda campaigns to promote independence and reach their target,” one source said.

The Post revealed last week that at least 5,000 police would be mobilised on Sunday. They include officers from five regional response contingents set up after the 2014 Occupy protests. Each contingent has more than 700 officers who are divided into two teams.

As the elections will run from 7.30am to 10.30pm on Sunday, one of the two teams in the Kowloon West region will be on standby at four major police stations from 7am to 7pm, while the other team will report for duty in the afternoon.

“About 40 officers [on the morning shift] will be sent out in case of any trouble in their police district,” another source said. “Another 30 detectives working in each of the stations will also be deployed in case of any major unrest.”

The source said similar arrangements would be made in the other four police regions.

In the past, officers from the response teams were usually on standby in the regional headquarters or the police station near a protest venue.

About two officers will be posted at each polling station and traffic policemen will be deployed to escort the delivery of ballot boxes to the central counting station at the AsiaWorld-Expo near the airport.

Sources said hundreds of part-time officers would be mobilised to carry out regular patrols across the city.

As the force is still collecting intelligence to see if anyone planned to cause trouble, the deployment will be finalised later this week.

It is understood officers from the force’s crime wing and cybersecurity and technology crime bureau at the Wan Chai headquarters have been deployed to monitor online forums and Facebook pages run by localist groups.

Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok said on Monday: “Regarding the election that is going to be held this Sunday, the police and the relevant government departments have made full preparations to ensure that voting will be carried out smoothly, legally and in accordance with the law.

“We have operation plans in place as well as sufficient officers on duty so that if there is any situation that needs to be dealt with, it can be dealt with swiftly and in an orderly manner.”

On Monday, hundreds of officers mainly from the Police Tactical Unit took part in an election security drill at the unit’s training ground in Fanling to prepare for possible trouble.

During the exercise, dozens of mock protesters staged a sit-in at the outdoor training ground and officers wearing helmets formed a cordon around them. Banners with “Police Cordon Do Not Cross” were erected during the training.

It was part of a two-day drill that will end on Tuesday. All regional and district commanders will discuss emergency tactics in the afternoon.

“Police conduct regular training exercises to enable officers to execute duties in a professional and efficient manner,” a police spokesman said.