Elite police unit to patrol 334 polling stations during Hong Kong by-election
During Sunday’s by-election, an elite unit trained to handle protests and terrorist attacks will carry video recording gear and patrol 334 polling stations
A new Hong Kong police team formed last year to deal with lawbreakers at mass protests in the wake of the 2016 Mong Kok riot will be on standby during Sunday’s Legislative Council by-election, the Post has learned.
Officers from the regional public order event investigation teams equipped with video recording gear would also be on patrol in vehicles to monitor 334 polling stations across the city, according to police insiders.
This will mark the first time the new team, comprising 35 officers operating under the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau (OCTB), will be involved in such an operation since it hit the ground running late last year.
One source said the squad would investigate any case of unrest.
The team was set up in the wake of the Mong Kok riot where protesters hurled bricks dug up from pavements at police and lit fires on the streets. About 100 officers were injured during the violent unrest that broke out on the first night of Lunar New Year in 2016. The chaos lasted more than 10 hours.
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According to police, the team was created in view of “the global trend of terrorism” and the force’s “experience in tackling massive disasters and cross-district public events”.
In addition to the OCTB team on standby on Sunday, uniformed officers will be posted at each polling station.
Another source said officers from response teams, such as the Emergency Unit and Police Tactical Unit, would also be deployed to deal with any unrest during the election.
The video team, which has been deployed during past protests, would only start filming if there was trouble, the source said, adding that the force had been making security preparations and collecting intelligence.
There were no plans to deploy regional response contingents, which were set up under five police regions after the 2014 Occupy protests, each with about 800 officers.
“So far, there has been no intelligence to indicate that anyone plans to cause trouble during the by-election,” the source said. “As police are still gathering intelligence, the deployment will be finalised in the next two days.”
During the Legco elections in 2016, more than 5,000 officers were mobilised across the city.
Sources also told the Post that officers from the crime wing and cybersecurity and technology crime bureau had been deployed to monitor online forums and websites and check for any illegal gathering or protest on Sunday.
The by-election is being held to fill four of the six seats vacated by opposition lawmakers who were disqualified last year over improper oath-taking.
Some 2.1 million registered voters will decide the winners of the seats once held by Demosisto’s Nathan Law Kwun-chung in the Hong Kong Island geographical constituency, and Youngspiration’s Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang in Kowloon West and New Territories East respectively.
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More than 7,600 voters in the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape functional constituency will choose someone to fill the fourth seat vacated by Edward Yiu Chung-yim, who is now seeking to make a comeback via Kowloon West.
Two ousted lawmakers, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and Lau Siu-lai, have filed an appeal against their disqualifications.