Shields on wheels: the luxury (and bulletproof) cars that will carry Xi Jinping and his entourage around Hong Kong

Top-of-the-line model also favoured by city’s tycoons

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 June, 2017, 5:12pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 June, 2017, 6:17pm

During his visit to Hong Kong, Chinese President Xi Jinping will be ferried around in a car that not only looks fit for a head of state, but one which can repel bullets, has a reinforced body, and is the luxury brand of choice for the city’s super-rich.

The BMW 7 Series is the prestige offering from the German car maker.

Other buyers in the four-wheeled fortress market include Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-shing and the Kwok brothers of Sun Hung Kai Properties, all of whom also favour BMWs.

Parts of Hong Kong have been placed under an unprecedented security lockdown for Xi’s three-day trip, his first as China’s president, during which he will mark 20 years since the city returned to Chinese rule.

Large barricades ringed a security zone at the Wan Chai waterfront, with building work nearby halted for the duration of the trip.

And that nothing-left-to-chance attitude extended to the president’s choice of hotel. While his delegation will stay in the high-end Grand Hyatt, Xi opted for a room in the nearby, and less fancy, Renaissance Hong Kong Harbour View Hotel, which reportedly hosted rapper G-Dragon in 2013 and Russian pop duo t.A.T.u in 2003.

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The reason for the slight step down in opulence was that the Renaissance’s layout allowed the president to get into his car under cover of a roof. And when he does he’ll be climbing into a vehicle made to undisclosed custom specifications and which can withstand close-range gunfire, according to a former senior official for counterterrorism at Hong Kong Police, Clement Lai Ka-chi, who also worked in the G4 unit which protects VIPs.

“These cars meet international standards and have bulletproof windows and a strengthened chassis among their protection facilities,” Lai said on a radio programme. “Because the cars look like ordinary cars rather than armoured vehicles, it is impossible to see from the outside the exact security measures of each car.”

What specific features the BMW is fitted with is a state secret, and BMW declined to comment about them. But according to the carmaker’s website, there are three safety levels for the cars. The top level, which the 7 Series boasts, is used against potential attacks with bombs or armour-piercing weapons.

The passenger cell has security glass and a “steel armour sheath lining the interior”, according to the manufacturer’s website.

Accompanying Xi’s 7 Series in the motorcade are BMW X5 cars, which – though they carry a lower security grade – BMW claims can repel attacks which use “blunt instruments or handguns of calibres up to .44 Magnum.”