Hong Kong politics
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Hopes and fears: Zhang Dejiang visits Hong Kong

‘We’re now on a counterterrorism operation’: Hong Kong police deploy 8,000 officers, threaten ‘decisive action’ against Zhang Dejiang protesters

More than one quarter of city’s force mobilised on most eventful day of state leader’s visit

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 May, 2016, 9:47am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 May, 2016, 11:50pm

Hong Kong police went a step further with their massive security operation and deployed nearly one third of their manpower to protect Zhang Dejiang on Wednesday, the Post has learned.

While the 8,000 officers on duty far outnumbered protesters on the streets, the League of Social Democrats still managed to hang another giant yellow banner calling for “genuine universal suffrage” in Kowloon and release a balloon near the restricted zone in Wan Chai.

In keynote speech, Zhang Dejiang highlights four areas for Hong Kong to focus on in future

But protesters were kept well away from Grand Hyatt Hotel, where Zhang was staying, and the Convention and Exhibition Centre where he delivered a key speech during the summit on Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road” trade strategy.

The visiting state leader also attended a banquet there last night.

A top police source told the Post that around 5,000 officers were deployed on Hong Kong Island, while another 3,000 were positioned in other districts, including the Science Park in the New Territories, which Zhang visited in the afternoon. The original plan was to have 6,000 officers protecting him on any given day.

The enhanced security came after some groups used social media to encourage people to storm the summit venue, but the source said there was no connection.

“We need more officers as the dangers posed to Zhang are at their highest level today. So many important people are concentrated in one place,” the source said. “As a rule, manpower is needed to handle unforeseeable protests and clashes as we’re now conducting a counterterrorism operation.”

Some members of the League of Social Democrats tried to bring five yellow balloons, with slogans attached, outside the China Resources Building in the evening.

Party chairman Avery Ng Man-yuen released one, before they were stopped by officers, who popped the other four balloons, citing security risk .

The force had warned earlier that any flying objects, including balloons and drones, were banned over the security zones during Zhang’s visit.

Earlier in the afternoon, Ng and other activists draped a yellow banner bearing the familiar pro-democracy phrase“I want genuine universal suffrage” on a slope near Anderson Road in Sau Mau Ping.

Smiles on one side, protests on the other as Zhang Dejiang arrives for Hong Kong visit

It was the fourth “souvenir” the party had offered Zhang since he arrived on Tuesday.

The giant banner was displayed near On Tat Estate, a new public housing compound on Anderson Road, which Zhang was expected to visit this morning. Firemen quickly removed the banner.

Dozens joined another protest by the Civil Human Rights Front near Southorn Playground in Wan Chai.

First they demanded the state stop “meddling” in Hong Kong affairs, and later challenging Zhang to meet them face to face.

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy groups drape banners from hills as Zhang Dejiang arrives

Due to the forum at the convention centre, Expo Drive has been shut down until noon on Thursday.