The large, water-filled barricades that sprang up to protect Hong Kong police stations against attacks by violent anti-government protesters last year are finally coming down, insiders say – a product of diminished social unrest in the face of the city’s sweeping new national security law and strict social-distancing regulations.
Most of the barriers fencing off the force’s headquarters in Wan Chai – which was besieged by protesters multiple times last year – were cleared away on Sunday evening, while the barricades at other police facilities were set to be removed within a month, the Post has learned.
“They are being removed because the threat of station attacks is considered to be a lot less than before,” one police source said.
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Another source said there were “no attacks [against police facilities] for a long time, and they need to return to normalcy”.
He said the barriers were being removed because violent protests had died down following the enactment of the national security law, as well as the adoption of social-distancing regulations aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19.
“The force has also adopted early intervention and resolute enforcement actions to stop crowds of protesters building up,” he said of more recent but scattered demonstrations. “Those who do not follow our orders to leave will face immediate arrest.”
The security barriers were put in place at most of the city’s police facilities after mobs attacked some stations with petrol bombs, bricks and even bows and arrows, at times damaging security cameras and spray painting the walls of the premises over the course of months of anti-government protests sparked by a now-withdrawn extradition bill last year.
But while the barriers around police stations are coming down, the sources said there was no plan at this stage to remove the ones outside the city’s legislature and government headquarters in Admiralty, or at Beijing’ s liaison office in Sai Wan.
A police spokesman, meanwhile, said the force would make occasional assessments of risks and operational needs, and replace water barriers when necessary.
The sources also noted that most of the officers from the 6,000-strong riot squad had recently returned to regular policing after being drafted into protest-control work at the height of the chaos last year.
The staffing reshuffle comes amid an uptick in reported crimes.
According to official statistics, reports of robbery rose to 214 in the first eight months of this year, up 193 per cent from the same period last year. The number of burglaries rose 28 per cent, to 1,457, during the same period.
Police also handled 10,534 reports of criminal deception between January and August, a 101 per cent year-on-year rise.