Hong Kong police are planning to flood the streets with 5,000 officers in response to calls for a second wave of protests outside the city’s legislature and administrative headquarters on Tuesday night, law enforcement sources have said.
The deployment from a total force of 30,000 will see officers drafted in from all over Hong Kong, and comes in response to the running battles that took place between police and protesters in the early hours of Monday morning.
Describing it as “a huge operation”, one source told the South China Morning Post “the police force will mobilise the workforce from all districts”.
The number of officers is only slightly fewer than those deployed when senior Chinese officials visit the city. Personnel from various formations, such as the Police Tactical Unit (PTU) and Emergency Unit (EU), have been told to report for duty at 6pm.
“A regional response contingent will also be deployed in the operation,” another source said. Five regional response contingents were set up under five police regions after the 2014 Occupy protest, each with about 800 officers.
Elite officers from the special tactical squad, known as blue team, will be among thousands deployed to combat any possible unrest. The elite squad comprises officers from the force’s counterterrorism division and airport security unit.
Most of the uniformed officers across the city have been on standby since the weekend to handle possible clashes.
In an attempt to tighten security around Legislative Council, the source said officers would carry out stop and search operations on suspicious people along the routes in Admiralty.
The force insiders said the deployment of more than 5,000 officers was needed following the pitched battle that occurred after Sunday’s peaceful demonstration against the city’s controversial extradition bill. The organiser of the demonstration said 1.03 million people attended.
The police plan came after Wen Wei Po, a pro-China newspaper in Hong Kong, reported that pro-independence protesters were planning to besiege Legco at 12am on Wednesday. The second reading of the bill is expected to be held that day.
Police arrested 19 people on Sunday and early Monday over the violence that erupted at the end of Sunday’s march.
Officers also intercepted 358 protesters, most of them younger than 25 years old, for their roles in the clashes that left injuries on people from both sides.
The latest security blanket will be as tight as the one thrown over the city to protect senior Chinese official Zhang Dejiang, when the force used 6,000 officers a day to protect the then chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee on his visit to Hong Kong in 2016.
The scale, is however, smaller than the protection for state leader President Xi Jinping. More than a third of the entire Hong Kong Police Force was deployed to protect the president during his visit in 2017 to mark the 20th anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese sovereignty.
The force normally deploys between 200 and 1,600 officers to handle the annual July 1 rally each year, depending on its size.