Operation Santa Claus

Hong Kong’s toughest cops happy to fight it out in fun charity challenges

Unit’s signature armoured vehicles are on the move – but it’s all done through muscle power in popular contest

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 December, 2017, 3:09pm
UPDATED : Friday, 22 December, 2017, 10:15am

Pulling a 10-tonne armoured vehicle is a popular tradition at the Police Tactical Unit’s annual charity event to raise funds for Operation Santa Claus, the yearly charity campaign organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK.

And this year the competition known as “Unimog Pull” was the highlight again, with officers split into five teams, each with five members. The challenge was to pull the PTU’s signature armoured vehicles from one side of a square to the other in the quickest time.

To generate funds, teams were allowed to recruit extra members – for a donation of HK$100 per head, or they could pay HK$100 to have their members sit in the opponent’s vehicle to pile on the weight.

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It came as no surprise that the Special Duties Unit, known for its tough and well-trained personnel, won the contest for the second consecutive year.

Police chief inspector Chris Ho Yuet-hang said the event was meaningful as well as fun – despite being on the losing team – and they would try their best to raise more funds.

“I think that regardless of what position we are in, we all enjoy every moment, and winning or losing is not the most important thing. The most important is that we are doing something good for society, so we treasure the moment,” he said.

Six contests were held in one day, with each team having to donate money according to its ranking in the challenge. The highest amount to be paid for coming in last was HK$800.

Another challenge for the participants was called “thread a needle”.

In the game participants had to wear a reindeer headband and do burpees, or squat thrust exercises. Dropping the headband incurred a penalty of HK$50.

They then had to do other exercises including dumb bell curls, running with a 20kg sandbag on their shoulders, and spinning 10 times around a cone with their foreheads placed on top. They would then have to fight off dizziness to complete the final task – pulling a thread through five needles.

While the SDU dominated many of the games, chief inspector Alex Tang Chi-siu, who was also once on the unit’s team, managed to beat the top dogs in this challenge.

“It feels great and everyone is having fun, everybody is doing their best to raise money for charity,” he said.

“It’s one of the most important traditions that we all look forward to every year, especially since it’s close to Christmas and we get to play games and have fun with colleagues from different units. You get along well with each other and it’s good because staff can come together to have some sort of team building.”

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The “Redman Rumble” was another favourite challenge. Officers wearing protective gear would have to burst opponents’ balloons taped to their bodies, using foam batons. Each team had the option of buying more balloons at HK$10 each to keep players alive.

The competitive spirit was strong as the game started with nearly 400 officers cheering on their team members.

Acting chief superintendent Larry Chan Kin-kwok said the event was one of the very important projects undertaken by the unit every year.

“I think Operation Santa Claus is very meaningful, not because of the fundraising charity nature but also it creates a very cohesive environment behaviour within the whole unit as well as the force,” he said. “Actually I think the PTU is one out of two – apart from RTHK – government organisations that is taking part in this event, so I feel very proud of it and I hope this event can be held at PTU headquarters forever.”

Chan also said it was rare for PTU officers to have so much fun at headquarters.

“To be honest we seldom have such a happy time within the PTU headquarters, not because the training itself is not a happy matter, but the training schedule, the nature of the training is mainly for policing riots so it’s quite serious,” he explained. “Trainees and trainers do not have such time to relax, so Operation Santa Claus is really a good chance for entertainment and to have a happy time in the half-day programme. So you can find a lot of happy faces there.”

A flea market sale was also held to raise more money, and the day ended with a lunch gathering.