Ariana Grande and Premier League football teams: How Hong Kong’s counter terror patrols have increased threefold
The city’s Counter Terrorism Response Unit inspected and patrolled just 200 ‘sensitive locations’ in 2009 – now the number is triple that
The number of sensitive locations that Hong Kong’s elite counter terrorism officers inspect and patrol has increased threefold to 600 over the past eight years, in response to global terror attacks, the Post has learned.
The revelation comes after officers from the Counter Terrorism Response Unit (CTRU) were deployed to patrol outside the Hong Kong Stadium where the Premier League Asia Trophy took place in July. Four English soccer teams – Liverpool, Crystal Palace, Leicester City and West Bromwich Albion – played in the tournament.
That event was the first time the anti-terrorism squad had carried out patrol duties at an international event in the city, the Post understands.
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Similar deployments will take place when US singer Ariana Grande performs in Hong Kong on September 21. In May, a suicide bomber targeted the 24-year-old pop star’s concert in Manchester, England, leaving 23 dead and 250 injured.
A top police source said the surge was in response to terrorist activities around the globe in recent years, as attacks targeted large crowds to create large numbers of casualties and draw international attention.
“Not all the locations require day-to-day patrols by anti-terrorism officers. They are categorised into different risk levels in accordance with intelligence and assessment,” he said. “Those classified as low risk may be patrolled every three months.”
But the source stressed the city’s overall terrorism threat level remained “moderate” and there was no intelligence to suggest Hong Kong had been targeted for attack.
He said the force offered security advice to some of the 600 locations and helped them to make contingency plans in the event of an attack.
The unit only shortlisted 200 ‘sensitive locations’ when it was established in 2009 and manned by 35 officers. More than 150 officers are now required to undertake specialist training and learn how to deal with explosives.
“The unit will review the list regularly. Some premises will be removed from the list and new sites will be shortlisted. It all depends on intelligence collection and risk assessment,” he said.
The force’s counterterrorism unit has carried out car patrols at locations such as consular premises, prominent landmarks, financial districts, transport networks, power plants and oil depots, the Post understands
Before the Christmas season, the team had carried out patrol duties on the city’s railway system. It had not previously entered MTR stations.
The force mounted a large scale anti-terror exercise at Hong Kong Stadium last month ahead of the arrival of the American pop star in the wake of the Manchester attack.
Another police source said anti-terrorism officers would patrol outside the AsiaWorld-Expo on the day of the Ariana Grande show, while the venue’s management and the event organisers were responsible for indoor security.
He said the force had not received any requests to provide personal protection for the singer during her visit and that no intelligence suggested the gig would be a target.
Concert promoter Live Nation earlier announced unprecedented security measures would be in place.
Concertgoers cannot bring backpacks, bags or purses of any size, bottles or cans, cameras, video or audio recording devices, selfie sticks or long umbrellas into the venue.