HONG KONG • Security in Hong Kong has been stepped up as the city prepares to welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping this week for the 20th anniversary of the handover to China and the swearing in of the new government.
The police are deploying up to 9,000 officers each day during the three-day visit starting on Thursday, and Mr Xi's convoy of vehicles will be protected by the elite police motorcycle squad, The Standard newspaper said yesterday.
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 the South China Morning Post.
"After terrorist attacks happen in other countries, we analyse their tactics, time and location," FEG headquarters team leader Steven Chong said in an interview with the Post. "We keep our techniques up to date, which will prevent similar incidents from happening in Hong Kong."
Mr Xi will be escorted under the most stringent security level.
This level would involve having five motorcycle officers leading the formation as the "arrowhead" in front of the VIP motorcade, said The Standard.
All 59 FEG officers have been engaging in drills in preparation for deployment. The highest level of escort would require all of them to be present, said Inspector Chong.
The FEG, set up in 1986, comprises officers from five regional traffic units, and candidates have to go through challenging screening tests, according to a government press release yesterday.
They have to navigate through obstacles which test their driving skills. Candidates also have to brake at high speeds and stop and steer before a specific point to show they can act swiftly in an emergency.
Equipped with tailor-made protective jackets, escort officers are also covered with more reflective materials than ordinary traffic police uniforms, said the press release.
Besides ensuring that VIPs arrive at their destinations safely, the FEG is also responsible for planning the routes. They must also be able to react quickly to sudden emergencies such as protests.
"We always have these elements in our regular training, like how we should respond when the road is suddenly blocked," Insp Chong told the Post, adding that when such a situation arises, the escort group could make a U-turn and take another route.
Mr Xi's visit will be his first since becoming president in 2013 and will culminate in the inauguration of Hong Kong's new leader Carrie Lam on Saturday.
His visit will be shrouded in a huge security operation, as protesters say they are preparing to gather during the handover celebrations.
Yesterday, Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters draped a black flag over a statue symbolising the city's return to China by Britain, Agence France-Presse reported.
High-profile student campaigner Joshua Wong and a dozen demonstrators attached the black cloth to the giant golden bauhinia flower on Hong Kong's harbourfront in an early-morning protest as security tried to stop them from climbing on the famous tourist attraction.
The sculpture of the bauhinia, which became the emblem of Hong Kong after the handover, was a present to the city from China in 1997 and stands outside the convention centre where Mr Xi will attend anniversary events.