The Force Stocks Up On Rubber Bullets To Prepare For Any Violence at HK Event

Original Publication Date: 
6 March, 2005

The force stocks up on rubber bullets to prepare for any violence at HK event

Hong Kong police have been stocking up on rubber bullets and sandbags to deal with violent protests that could break out during a World Trade Organisation conference in December.

Bill Suen Kwai-leung, commandant of the Police Tactical Unit who is in charge of security arrangements for the sixth ministerial conference, said this was part of the force's plan to handle anti-globalisation protesters.

He said the police last month met the newly formed Hong Kong People's Alliance on the World Trade Organisation, which organises protests, and said the force would continue to maintain a dialogue with non-governmental organisations. 'Aside from ensuring that the conference will be held safely, we will also balance Hong Kong people's freedom of expression.

Mr Suen said police would set up an area for protesters that would be easily accessible. The area would be at an 'appropriate distance' from the entrance to the conference venue at the Convention and Exhibition Centre. He said his team would draw on experience from past ministerial conferences, including the one in Cancun, Mexico, in 2003, which drew up to 10,000 protesters. About 10,000 overseas participants are expected at the sixth ministerial conference, the trade group's highest decision-making body.

The meeting convenes at least once every two years and is being held in Hong Kong for the first time. Janet Wong Wing-chen, head of the conference co-ordination office, said her team would arrange dinners and cultural performances for trade officials. There would also be a publicity campaign to inform the public about the conference. Police have set up nine working groups to work on security, public order, traffic arrangements, public relations and other matters.

The Commerce, Industry and Technology Bureau has been drafting legislation to give WTO officials privileges and immunity while they are in Hong Kong. This will exempt the officials from direct taxes and duties, give the WTO freedom of communication and immunity from the legal process.

Legislator Ronny Tong Ka-wah SC said he was concerned about immunity from the legal process and questioned whether this meant, for example, if an official could get away with running over someone with a car. Frank Poon Ying-kwong, deputy principal government counsel for the Department of Justice, said only the WTO director-general would be given full immunity from the legal process. Lower-ranking officials would be given immunity only when this was connected to their work.

The bureau will give more details on the legislation at the next Legco commerce and industry panel meeting. The law is expected to be passed by the end of the legislative year.

newsclip by Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM)