Hong Kong puts 8,000 police on streets for China's National Day

Police are seen patrolling in Hong Kong on July 22, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong is putting more police on its streets during this year's National Day celebrations than it did for the same holiday during historic unrest two years ago, evidence of the laser focus authorities are placing on eliminating any sign of dissent in the financial hub.

The city's police force will deploy more than 8,000 officers Thursday (Sept 30) and Friday, including counter-terrorism experts, elite Special Tactical Squad "raptors" and plainclothes officers, local media outlet HK01 and others reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

That's more than the 6,000 on the streets during the holiday in 2019, when the sometimes violent protests shook the city.

Police will cordon off areas in the Wan Chai district where top officials will conduct an annual flag-raising ceremony and where Chief Executive Carrie Lam is expected to give a speech.

Representatives for the Hong Kong police and government didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The large police presence comes as mainland officials repeatably emphasise the importance of the former British colony's return to stability after the anti-government protests in 2019.

Beijing responded to that unrest in June last year by imposing a national security law on Hong Kong that carries sentences as long as life in prison for secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces.

Officials have been vigilant for signs of dissent or terrorism after a lone-wolf assailant stabbed a police officer on July 1, an annual holiday to mark the day Hong Kong was transferred back to Chinese rule from Britain in 1997.

About 6,000 police officers were deployed earlier this month when an elite group voted for the committee that will select the city's leader next year.

About 6,000 officers were deployed for last year's National Day, which is celebrated every Oct 1 in Hong Kong.

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