Hong Kong police to put 7,000 officers on the streets this July 1

  • This year marks the city’s 24th anniversary of the 1997 handover to China, as well as 100 years since the founding of the Communist Party
  • Members of the force will provide security at the annual flag-raising ceremony and may even close part of Victoria Park

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Riot police stand guard in Causeway Bay in response to protesters' online calls for a march against the national security law in 2020. Photo: SCMP/Edmond So

Hong Kong police will deploy about 7,000 officers across the city on Thursday to “ensure there is sufficient manpower ready to respond to untoward incidents promptly”as it marks both 24 years since its return to Chinese sovereignty and the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party, say force insiders.

More than 3,000 of those personnel will be stationed on Hong Kong Island in areas such as Causeway Bay, Wan Chai and the city government’s offices in Admiralty.

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Police officers will also provide security at the annual flag-raising ceremony at Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai and the follow-up reception marking the anniversary of the city’s 1997 handover from British to Chinese sovereignty.

It is understood that more than 1,000 officers will be mobilised in the Kowloon West region, mainly in Mong Kok, while water cannons and armoured vehicles will be kept on standby.

Police will also close part of Victoria Park, the traditional starting point for the city’s annual July 1 march, that day should it prove necessary, a potential repeat of the rare step taken earlier this month to prevent anyone from gathering at the site of a banned Tiananmen Square vigil.

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When asked whether the recent closure of Apple Daily might draw more people to the streets, the source said: “It’s hard to predict, but the paper still has massive supporters.”

Another source said the manpower is necessary because the deployment will last from daybreak to late at night, pointing to necessary road closures around the Wan Chai ceremonies that would take place in the small hours of Thursday.

“We have to prepare for the worst, regardless of whether any intelligence has been received,” he added.

A reported 7,000 officers will be on standby on July 1. Photo: SCMP/Winson Wong

The sources said the force was still gathering intelligence and carrying out risk assessment and would finalise its deployment plan soon.

The preparations for July 1 also represent the first challenge for newly appointed police chief Raymond Siu Chak-yee, who took up the post last week amid a major reshuffle.

On Saturday, he said officers would assess the risk of any potential gatherings on the basis of national security concerns, the civil rights of the applicants and public safety.

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The preparations came to light after police on Monday cited the coronavirus pandemic as grounds for barring three groups from organising a march on July 1 to call for resistance against “political suppression and the release of all political prisoners”.

The three activist groups – the League of Social Democrats, Tin Shui Wai Connection and Save Lantau Alliance – applied to the force on Friday for approval to hold the march.

Their application was an attempt to resurrect the annual July 1 march traditionally organised by the Civil Human Rights Front, which previously revealed it would step away from the event for the first time since 2003 following the jailing of its convenor and launch of a police investigation into the legality of its very existence.

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