The Hong Kong Police Plan For The WTO Conference

As I have said many times, raw emotions like fear will always boost media audience ratings.  The WTO Conference will be held in December this year in Hong Kong.  Since this is already August, it is time to hype it up already.  Right?.  Express Weekly came up with this front page (posted at Shangri La) last month accompanied by a lurid text of predicted mayhem (namely, violence, suicide, arson, and the ultimately having to call out the People's Liberation Army to 'clear the square'):

This grandstanding effort by Express Weekly must have been perceived to be a threat to the market leader in weekly tabloids, Next Magazine.  Therefore, the Empire struck back this week (Next Magazine, Issue 804, August 4, 2005) with the alleged exact details and description of the police plan on how to defend the WTO conference site.

Here is the graphical illustration of the police deployment around the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre:

In the graphic, the legend on the right contains three elements.  The red rectangles refer to the areas in which demonstrators will be permitted to assemble.  In other words, they will be kept far away from the C&E Centre.  In fact, they don't even need to bring binoculars because their views will be blocked by the Hyatt Hotel.  The yellow circles in the legend are where the riot police squads will be stationed.  The red circles refer to the regular police squads in uniform.  Of course, if the Hong Kong police had learned anything from the American police, then the most important thing is to have undercover police officers penetrate the demonstrators, both to monitor the planning process as well as mingling with them during the demonstration.

Next Weekly even have the original hand-drawn map here:

In this map, the blue circles with the X inside are regular the police officers, the orange circles with the P inside are the Police Tactical Units and the yellow circles with the A inside are the demonstration areas.

Here is what the text of the article has to say about the police plan.  Near the demonstration area closest to the C&E Centre (note: it is the yellow circled A near the top of the hand-drawn map), the police will place a PTU (Patrol Tactical Unit) of 41 persons whose sole objective is to prevent any demonstrators from getting near the conference site.

Originally, the PTUs were trained in controlling situations and suppressing riots and they should be more than up to the task.  However, according to information from inside the police, the government has ordered that all PTUs must refrain from using violence in order to preserve the image of Hong Kong.  In other words, "no bloodshed."  Under these conflicting requirements, the PTUs had to develop a new strategy.

This magazine has learned that this so-called new strategy is basically defensive in nature.  The informed source said: "In the past, the PTU has trained for tactics that can be either offensive or defensive.  Now, they are training for a defense-only formation designed to reduce the probability of injury to the police officers."  But a PTU member who had been trained in anti-riot procedures was not complimentary towards the new tactics: "This is a strange formation.  It definitely cannot be used for offense.  At most, it can stop people from moving forward."

In the past, each team has at least seven to eight Remington shotguns.  In the new formation, there are at most one or two.  They will be using either rubber bullets or beanbags.  A PTU member said that there have been many violent incidents at previous WTO meetings and he is afraid that their setup will make them defenseless.  Together with their lack of practical battlefield experience, this may cause chaos if things get out of control.  The department's arrangement indicates that they consider not sustaining any injuries will be a victory of sorts.

The traditional Hong Kong police formation consists of four rows: row 1 has police officers holding small round shields mainly for defense purposes to prevent the demonstrators from advancing; rows 2 and 3 are police officers with batons and tear gas launchers mainly for close physical contact and self-defense; row 4 has police officers with Remington shotguns and other weapons in the event that the demonstrators employ violent methods.

The new Hong Kong police formation has the PTU members holding long shields that are five foot tall, forming a protective wall in the front (row 1) and in the back (row 4); rows 2 and 3 are police officers carrying small round shields and batons with some members even wearing full body armor to prevent injury.  All members will carry long batons, but there will only be one or two Remington shotguns using plastic bullets and beanbags.

Here are graphical illustrations of the gladiators on each side:

Is any of this true?  How would I know?  I am only a blogger translating from a sensationalistic tabloid magazine.  I do know that we still have four months to go before the actual event, and I await to be surprised every week as the fear factor gets turned higher and higher.  That's entertainment!

Follow-up postMedia Monitoring in Hong Kong  Debunking the alleged police deployment map.

(The Standard)  Police plot strategy for WTO protests.  August 9, 2005.

Hong Kong's law enforcement officials say they are bracing for radical anti-globalization protesters at December's World Trade Organization talks who may seek to paralyze the Central district by forming a human barricade at the exit of the cross-harbor tunnel,

According to intelligence received by the government, an official said Monday in a wide-ranging briefing, protesters are also expected to attempt to damage the glass walls of the hotels in Admiralty and Wan Chai where political and business leaders from around the world will be staying.

Political dignitaries are expected to stay at the Grand Hyatt in Wan Chai while business leaders will mostly check-in at the JW Marriott, the Conrad Hotel and the Island Shangri-La in Admiralty.

Hong Kong authorities, however, have formidable assets on their side. The SAR is largely accessible only by air, which gives them the ability to identify and monitor protesters in a way that officials at other WTO protests were unable to do. Cheap accommodation is also difficult to find.

The government source said that if the planned moves are not thwarted, they may be enough to paralyze the traffic and the whole of Central because by that time police might need to seal off main roads in the district.

The government has been busy collecting intelligence from different agencies on the planned moves of the protesters, including from the central government and different consulates.

Officials say police are on high alert because the expected protesters are experienced and not easily tackled.

"If the protesters really form a human barricade at the tunnel exit, police may not be capable of removing them because they are experienced and know ways to cause havoc and confront the authorities,'' the source said.

"You can never imagine how extreme they can get. What if some Korean peasants suddenly kill themselves amid the protest at the tunnel?

"Police have to prepare for the worst and come up with contingency plans to tackle the chaotic situation,'' the source said, adding that the government is still planning appropriate strategies.''

Violent protests by anti-globalization demonstrators occurred at talks in Seattle in 1999 and Cancun in 2003, raising concerns that the Sixth WTO Ministerial Conference here could turn violent as well.

The Hong Kong People's Alliance on WTO, a protest organization, expects as many as 1,000 representatives from the Korean Peasants' League, dubbed Asia's most militant anti-globalization demonstrators.

A farmer from the league stabbed himself to death during a protest staged outside the venue of the WTO talks in Cancun, Mexico, in 2003.

The talks will be held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai with 6,000 senior government officials, 3,000 journalists and 2,000 NGO representatives in attendance from December 13 to 18.

More than 4,000 demonstrators plan protests for December 11, 13 and 18, gathering at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay and marching to the conference venue to present petitions.

The demonstrators then plan to return to Southorn Playground in Wan Chai, or if possible, Chater Garden and a nearby pedestrian area in Central.

As part of the contingency plans, police earlier proposed to seal off parts of the district near the venue, limit access to some office buildings and shut several transport services for the five days of the gathering, to ensure the safety of many foreign dignitaries and that talks go smoothly.

Apart from the security measures, the government is also considering how to deal with the protesters' request for accommodation in Hong Kong.  The groups have requested the government allocate several football pitches in Victoria Park for them to camp in because most have so far have failed to book accommodation, the source said.

The government has not yet given them a reply, but the source said there is no way the government will allow them to stay in the park.  The source added the government has no responsibility to assist them in finding places to stay.

"The government is just playing delaying tactics. The most ideal thing is that the protesters won't turn up because they just can't find a place to stay,'' the source said.

Tam Chun-yin, coordinator of the Hong Kong People's Alliance on WTO, acknowledged members have requested the police provide accommodation for them, such as in Victoria Park or other vacant buildings or schools if at the end of the day they cannot find any. "Only in the worst scenario that we cannot find any place to stay would we need the help of the government,'' he said.

Tam said so far the action group has booked a resort village in Wu Kai Sha, Ma On Shan, which can house several hundred people.  But he added that more than 1,000, mainly peasants, have failed to find accommodation.

Tam said the group is now contacting religious schools and community centers for assistance.

Despite concerns expressed by government officials, Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology John Tsang, who will chair the WTO meeting, said during the opening ceremony of the 2005 International Conference on Nano-technology and Advanced Materials Monday that preparations are going smoothly.

"We are quite happy with the progress so far,'' Tsang told reporters.

He added that considerable preparations in logistics, security and content arrangements have already been carried out.

The summit is hoping to reduce trade protectionism and advocate the use of trade to aid development in poorer countries.