Visiting aircraft carrier suspected of causing electronic havoc
Disruptions to Hong Kong cellular phone services and malfunctioning car locks are thought to be linked to the US flattop's security measures
Local media in Hong Kong are reporting that, as the US nuclear-powered supercarrier Ronald Reagan pulled into the city’s waters on Wednesday morning, some people in Hong Kong found themselves unable to remotely unlock their cars.
Also, cellphone users complained there were intermittent service disruptions when they rode ferries to the city’s outlying islands during the arrival of the Ronald Reagan.
At noon on Wednesday, the gigantic US flattop dropped anchor a few kilometers south of Tsing Yi Island, west of the city’s Victoria Harbor. Before long some drivers on Tsing Yi Island were scratching their heads as they found themselves unable to remotely unlock their cars. Car owners in Central and Western districts also ran into similar problems as their car locks gave up the ghost.
Hong Kong’s Communications Authority said it had received a number of inquiries and complaints relating to wireless device malfunctions, while a spokesperson with the US Consulate-General in the city said he had no knowledge of the carrier’s port call affecting civilian vehicles.
A radio communications expert with the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation told local papers that he found most of the affected cars were Japanese-made. These typically use a frequency of 315 MHz for their remote locking systems, and this frequency might be close to that used by the radar and other electromagnetic equipment aboard the visiting US carrier.
Another observer pointed out that the Ronald Reagan crew must have activated stringent anti-radio interference and anti-espionage measures before sailing into Hong Kong, now that the People’s Liberation Army has a sizable garrison in the former British colony, adding that the south lee of Tsing Yi Island where the US carrier lay at anchor was merely a stone’s throw from a vital PLA naval base on Stonecutters Island.
Meanwhile, military buffs and photographers continue to flock to Tsing Yi to get a view of the Ronald Reagan and other warships in its strike group.
For decades it has been routine for US warships to dock in Hong Kong, a de-facto overseas base for replenishment of supplies as well as R&R for crews. The Ronald Reagan has been a frequent visitor to the city since its 2003 commission, with its last visit in October 2017.
Yet there were no reports of civilian equipment being rendered ineffective or telecom networks being jammed during its previous visits.
Nonetheless, the Hong Kong Police Force have been known to deploy an anti-explosive signal-jamming van when foreign dignitaries such as Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev or Indonesian President Joko Widodo were in town.