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Hong Kong’s police force will be mobilized in its entirety to protect the state leader and his entourage during a potential visit on the 25th anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese rule. Photo: K. Y. Cheng

Hong Kong police to mobilise all officers for possible state leader visit at handover bash, force chief says

  • Police Commissioner Raymond Siu says security is more challenging this year because of rise in local terrorism
  • Six anti-riot armoured vehicles dubbed ‘saber-toothed tigers’ to be on standby, as well as elite squads

Hong Kong police will throw an unprecedented security blanket around the city during the 25th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule, with all officers to be mobilised, including elite squads, to safeguard the potential visit by the state leader and his entourage, the force’s chief has said.

Commissioner of the Hong Kong Police Force Raymond Siu Chak-yee told the Post on Monday that security was more challenging this year because of the rise of local terrorism. He added that preparations were in full swing to ensure guests’ safety, which included stepping up counterterrorism drills and patrolling social media on a daily basis for posts inciting hatred, violence and attacks against government officials.

“We cannot neglect the possibility of local terrorism and terrorist attacks. We have been making numerous arrests of people using genuine firearms and explosives,” Siu said in the interview.

“We have been able to interdict the activities, but there’s no room for complacency … It will be a very full mobilisation of our officers to deal with these security operations.”

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Last month, police arrested three people and seized about 30kg (70lbs) of chemicals that could be used to make high-powered explosives. In a separate case, officers seized a high-powered submachine gun and 50 rounds of ammunition in a raid on a subdivided flat during a HK$3.6 million (US$458,892) drug bust.

The security operations will involve officers from elite squads including the Special Duties Unit, commonly known as the “Flying Tigers”, the Counter Terrorism Response Unit and the Airport Security Unit. Plain-clothes officers will also be on the ground to look out for suspicious individuals.

The chief said the force would deploy not only operational officers to the front line, but also personnel providing back-end support from divisions like the Police College and the Complaints Against Police Office. Auxiliary officers as well as special constables, who were seconded from five other departments when manpower was stretched to the limit during anti-government protests in 2019, will also be mobilised.

Swathes of the city were placed under a security lockdown when Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a three-day visit to Hong Kong on June 29, 2017, to host the inauguration of the new government on the 20th ­anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese sovereignty. Roads were closed and parts of Wan Chai and Admiralty had become ­no-go zones, while police deployed a massive air-land-sea security operation.

To prepare for this year’s event, Siu said the force had formed a steering committee that began operations early last year. Chaired by the deputy commissioner in charge of operations, the committee is made up of eight working groups to handle issues such as procurement of equipment, operational strategy, human resources and media management.

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Six newly bought anti-riot armoured vehicles, dubbed “saber-toothed tigers”, will be on standby during the handover anniversary.

On July 1 last year, a lone assailant stabbed a police officer in Causeway Bay, before killing himself. Authorities called the incident a “lone wolf-style act of domestic terrorism”.

Siu urged members of the public to report suspicious individuals.

“Those shops that are selling precursor chemicals that can be used to make bombs or explosives, if they see anyone suspicious coming to buy these chemicals, then I will appeal them to make a report to us without delay,” he said.

“Everybody has a role to play in order to counter possible terror attacks.”