HK holds numerous drills even though terror risk ‘moderate’
The city's police force has conducted more than a dozen drills in past months to hone skills to tackle emergencies
Within a short span of two months, Hong Kong police have conducted no fewer than seven anti-terrorism drills for its various regional divisions, bureaus and formations, making some wonder if the city could be facing an attack in the near future.
Hong Kong is one of the few major financial centers that have been spared the terrorism that has hit other cities and tourist hubs.
Though the overall terrorist threat that Hong Kong faces remains “moderate” and there is no intelligence of any impending attacks, as the local authorities have reiterated, some feel that the host of drills and exercises, big and small, that the local police have undertaken point to the opposite.
Observers fear that some radicalized domestic workers working in Hong Kong may be instigated to launch lone-wolf attacks in the city’s dense business and commercial precincts or public-transport systems.
A New York Times report last July shed light on nanny-turned-jihadist fighters from Indonesia who had been seduced by pro-Islamic State doctrines.
It has been reported that recruitment flyers were distributed to Indonesian maids as they were lured to join ISIS.
Also, the possibility of terrorists launching random attacks in Hong Kong when they fail to enter mainland China or another target country cannot be ruled out either, since Hong Kong maintains a liberal visa and entry regime.
Visiting heads of state and other VIPs could also be high-profile targets, while the city’s airport, foreign diplomatic missions, border checkpoints, data centers, and headquarters of key financial institutions may also be prone to attacks amid a changing political and economic landscape.
One such drill, Aimhigh, held last month by the Hong Kong Police Force’s Kowloon East Region, simulated a terrorist attack in an opening ceremony of a multinational corporation, with several terrorists lurking in the venue and attacking people there with firearms and other weapons.
In November, the police held an inter-sectoral exercise on dealing with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks, codenamed “REDFOG,” at the Hong Kong Science Park to test the interoperability among units, departments and stakeholders concerned.
The exercise simulated a chemical explosion in a laboratory, causing mock injuries to a number of staff members, invoking the sanitizing protocol.
Another exercise was held that same month at the city’s Sha Tin Racecourse and Racecourse MTR station involving 150 officers from the Emergency Unit, Police Tactical Unit, Counter Terrorism Response Unit, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau and Railway District, in a simulated attack by a group of armed terrorists on passengers on an MTR (Mass Transit Railway) train that was arriving at the Racecourse Station.
One of the “terrorists,” wearing a suicide vest, attempted to detonate an improvised explosive device that had been placed on a grandstand of the racecourse.
The exercise adopted a free-flowing approach in which the participants reacted spontaneously to the scene, as on-site officers sustaining incapacitating simulated injuries or fatalities were taken out of the venue, reducing the manpower available and testing the commanders’ response to emergencies.
The police also staged a multi-departmental exercise, codenamed “FIRESWEEPER VI,” in their Border District, which began with a dozen illegal immigrants “hijacking” their escorting police and immigration officers in a police vehicle during repatriation.
One rammed the vehicle into a crowd, causing an explosion and casualties of more than 100 people. Then some attackers fled to a farmhouse by car and held several persons hostage.
Most of the drills were closed to the media and public as the police stressed their tactics and deployment of teams were “highly sensitive,” urging the public not to read too much into routine operations to hone the force’s readiness to tackle emergencies.