Hong Kong steps up security ahead of Xi Jinping's visit: A look at the measures

Police patrol near Bauhinia Square in Hong Kong on June 28, 2017.
Police patrol near Bauhinia Square in Hong Kong on June 28, 2017. PHOTO: EPA
A commuter looks at his phone as he waits at a bus stop along a road lined by water-filled barriers in Hong Kong on June 27, 2017.
A commuter looks at his phone as he waits at a bus stop along a road lined by water-filled barriers in Hong Kong on June 27, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG - Chinese President Xi Jinping travels to Hong Kong on Thursday (June 29) to attend celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of the city's return to Chinese sovereignty and to oversee the July 1 swearing-in of Hong Kong's first female chief executive Carrie Lam.

The Wan Chai district where Mr Xi and his delegation will be staying has been turned into a fortress with a heavy police presence, water-filled barriers and steel barricades. 

Mr Xi's visit to Hong Kong will be his first since becoming president in 2013.

His visit will be shrouded in a huge security operation for fear that pro-democracy protests will get out of hand during the visit.

Over the next three days, about 11,000 of the city's 29,000 police officers will be involved in the security arrangements.  They will be deployed at ­different observation posts along his motorcade route to prevent protesters from embarrassing the Chinese leader, sources told local media.

From bulletproof windows to pouring glue onto pavements, Hong Kong's officials are leaving no stones unturned in ensuring the safety of Mr Xi and his delegation from Thursday to Saturday.

Here's a look at some of the measures:

TWO HOTELS BOOKED OUT

More than 1,300 rooms at Renaissance Hong Kong Harbour View Hotel in Wan Chai district on Hong Kong Island and its next-door Grand Hyatt Hotel will be reserved strictly for Mr Xi and his entourage, according to local reports.

 

"For security reasons, no other guests will be allowed to check in to the two hotels during the president's visit," one security source told South China Morning Post (SCMP).

 

The Renaissance's 861 rooms and the Grand Hyatt's 545 rooms are fully booked until July 2, said the report.

While last-minute changes are still likely, it appears that President Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan may break with tradition and stay at Hong Kong Harbour View Hotel instead of the Grand Hyatt Hotel. The key factor favouring the Renaissance is likely that the site allows Mr Xi to get into a bulletproof limousine under cover of a roof.

Former Chinese president Hu Jintao and Mr Zhang Dejiang, China's No. 3 leader and Beijing's pointman on Hong Kong's affairs, both stayed at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, which SCMP described as a more exclusive hotel, during their visits to Hong Kong.

Mr Xi's predecessor Hu Jintao visited the city in 2007 and 2012, and Mr Zhang visited in May last year.

The Grand Hyatt, according to SCMP, is equipped with bulletproof windows. The SCMP said it could not confirm whether the presidential suite at the Renaissance has bulletproof windows. One night in the suite at the Renaissance costs HK$28,000 (S$4,975), compared with HK$88,000 (S$15,636) at the Grand Hyatt.

TIGHT SECURITY AT HOTELS AND CONVENTION CENTRE

Security equipment, including X-ray machines, will also be set up at the Renaissance and Grand Hyatt.

To prevent vehicle attacks, about 300 barricades, weighing two tonnes each, will fence in the two hotels and the nearby Convention and Exhibition Centre which overlooks the Victoria Harbour, reported SCMP.

The day before Mr Xi's arrival, the "flying tigers", divers from the force's elite Special Duty Squad, will make an underwater security sweep of the waters off Wan Chai.

A restricted flying zone above Wan Chai and Victoria Harbour would also be in place between 9am on Thursday and 6pm on Saturday.

More than 10 marine police boats are expected to conduct 24-hour patrols around Victoria Harbour.

The swearing-in ceremony of Hong Kong's new chief executive will be held at the convention centre.

Work on the Wan Chai waterfront has also been suspended. Since Monday, tall water-filled barriers have been erected around the 78-storey Central Plaza which is in the same area.

KEEP PROTESTERS AT BAY

Intelligence officers are understood to be monitoring radical political activists, according to a security source SCMP spoke to.

There are designated protest zones outside the security zone in Wan Chai North district to keep the protesters at bay. So far, the police have received at least nine protest applications.

Civil Human Rights Front convener Au Nok Hin said his group plans to stage protests outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel, but the police had yet to allocate a space, reported The Standard.

MAKING SURE THE PAVEMENTS ARE GLUED

On Tuesday, about 10 workers were seen reinforcing the pavement along Tim Mei Avenue outside the Central Government Offices and Legislative Council Complex with glue. This is to prevent protesters from digging up bricks and using them as projectiles during protests.

The precaution, also used ahead of China's state leader Zhang Dejiang's visit to Hong Kong in May last year, could be extended to other places where Mr Xi is expected to visit during his three-day trip.

Mr Xi, according to The Standard, is expected to meet outgoing Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying at Government House in Mid-Levels on Thursday (June 29). Mr Xi could also visit West Kowloon Cultural District on the first day.

During the Mong Kok riot in February last year, rioters dug up about 2,000 bricks from pavements to attack police. The clashes left about 100 officers injured.

ELITE POLICE MOTORCYCLE SQUAD

Mr Xi's convoy of vehicles will be protected by the police force's 59-member elite motorcycle squad, reported The Standard newspaper.

Mr Xi will be escorted under the most stringent security level, which involves having five motorcycle officers leading the formation as the "arrowhead" in front of the VIP motorcade, said The Standard.

The Force Escort Group (FEG), responsible for protecting the motorcade of state leaders, has also developed anti-terror strategies together with the VIP Protection Unit. These tactics would target attacks where vehicles are used as weapons, such as those seen in Europe, said SCMP.

The police have warned of unscheduled traffic diversions as Mr Xi's motorcade criss-crosses Hong Kong during the trip.

Police will set up security zones two hours before Mr Xi arrives at a certain venue and the particular zone will be locked down 30 minutes before his arrival, reported EJinsight website.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Cheng Yiu Mo said the measures will cause inconvenience to the public, but he called for their understanding.

"Areas such as Admiralty and Wan Chai North will be affected most, and traffic congestion is very likely," he told The Standard.

It is understood that a core protection zone will follow Mr Xi's motorcade throughout his trip, which may lead to the temporary closure of main traffic routes such as the Tsing Ma Bridge.