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Hopes and fears: Zhang Dejiang visits Hong Kong

Elite officers, machine guns disguised as briefcases and a 45-strong motorcade: inside Zhang Dejiang’s Hong Kong security detail

A police source has told the Post about the tactics and gear used by elite officers to protect the visiting state leader during his trip to Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 May, 2016, 10:09pm
UPDATED : Friday, 20 May, 2016, 11:25am

The tactics and gear used by the mysterious VIP Protection Unit and the Hong Kong police during the visit of state leader Zhang Dejiang have been revealed to the Post by a police source.

With the security level of the Beijing’s third highest-ranking official raised to the maximum, the police had sent up to an unprecedented 8,000 officers to protect him during his trip to Hong Kong.

Elite officers from the VIP Protection Unit, formerly known as G4, one of the prime teams of the force, escorted the 69-year-old leader around the clock, alongside his own bodyguards from the Central Security Bureau.

A long motorcade had been seen in the past three days each time Zhang was out on business. It is understood the motorcade consisted of up to 45 police vehicles with at least six from the protection unit.

“Our motocycles led the way. [Zhang] seated in a luxurious bulletproof car, surrounded by another five protection unit vehicles protecting him from all directions,” the police source said.

A couple of them kept the doors slightly open whenever the motorcade left or approached a venue. The source explained that officers, equipped with firearms, flashbangs (stun grenades) and smoke grenades, seeing potential danger, could jump out of the car instantly to attack or defend if necessary. “It saved time from opening the doors. One or two seconds make a huge difference when protecting the convoy.”

The unit’s vehicles sandwiched the protectee car when getting close to the destination, to act as a shield and block the view of potential enemies.

Joining the motorcade were vans loaded with officers from Police Tactical Unit or Special Duties Unit, empty shuttle buses to act as shields or cover in case of attacks, and also a rare vehicle from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, which can shut down nearby phone and network signals.

"This kills the chance of enemies [triggering] bombs remotely by mobile phones," the source said, adding that the vehicle led the way in long journeys, as risks were higher.

A protection unit officer with a "briefcase" was often seen surveying the venue before the motorcade arrived. The source explained it was a machine gun disguised as a briefcase. His duty was to observe risks at the venue and attack instantly if any danger was found.

The protection unit is comprised of about 90 officers and is responsible for the personal safety of the Chief Executive and visiting dignitaries to the city, and planned the routes for Zhang’s journey. The team often came up with at least three route options each time Zhang went out, in case of potential threats. Police involved along one of the routes would not be told the alternatives to prevent a leak of information from insiders.

Traffic lights were all blocked as the motorcade does not stop during the trip. “[Zhang] would be exposed to risk, as he could be easily targeted if he stays still.”