Hong Kong police search country park for kidnappers

HONG KONG (AFP) - Hundreds of heavily armed officers are searching one of Hong Kong's rural country parks in a massive operation to hunt down six men who fled with millions in ransom money after a kidnap, local media have reported.

The suspects, who took a 29-year-old woman from her home, freed her after relatives paid a reported HK$28 million (S$4.8 million). They had initially demanded up to HK$50 million for the woman's release.

Hong Kong media reports said the woman is believed to be a granddaughter of the late Bossini fashion chain founder Law Ting-pong. 

Footage from Cable TV showed uniformed officers descending on a village in the eastern part of the city in the early hours of on Thursday, while hundreds of heavily armed officers have also been searching Ma On Shan Country Park since Tuesday, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) said.

Roadblocks have been set up and helicopters and marine vessels were deployed in the city-wide manhunt, which began after the unidentified woman was released, the newspaper added.

"The investigations for the case is ongoing," a police spokeswoman told AFP on Thursday.

She said the search operation was taking place "(all) over the territory", without giving further detail.

"Arresting them is just a matter of time," an unnamed police source told the SCMP.

The southern Chinese city of seven million people is for the most part considered to be safe, with violent crimes in 2014 falling almost 10 per cent from 2013. Robbery cases also fell 38.2 per cent to 309 cases in 2014, compared to figures from 2013.

But a series of high-profile kidnapping cases shocked the city in the 1990s.

The eldest son of the city's richest man Li Ka Shing was kidnapped in 1996 by the infamous crime boss Cheung Tze Keung, nicknamed "Big Spender", who also kidnapped property tycoon Walter Kwok in 1997.

Cheung fled to China but was later arrested by mainland authorities and executed in 1998.