Hong Kong police open fire during street arrest of suspected robbery gang in Ho Man Tin

Clifford Lo

Hong Kong police on Tuesday opened fire while arresting seven suspected members of a smash-and-grab gang in Ho Man Tin.

The men, aged from 20 to 27, were travelling in two vehicles – a white car and a taxi believed to have been stolen – when police swooped in on Sheung Lok Street shortly after 1pm.

One live round was fired and no one was injured in the operation by the police’s hit team, the Post was told.

Chief Inspector Wong Chi-yu, of the Kowloon West regional crime unit, said after the white car and the taxi became sandwiched by police vehicles, the white car tried to ram into police and speed away.

“As the life of our officer was under threat, the officer fired one shot,” Wong said. He added the bullet hit the white car’s metal frame near the front windscreen.

Police arrested five men on board the white car and another two men in the taxi, which had been reported stolen in Chai Wan last month.

Officers seized five knives, a sledgehammer, face masks and gloves from the two vehicles.

Wong said police investigations had indicated the gang was on their way to carry out another hold-up in Hung Hom. He said it was possible further arrests would be made.

Police are investigating whether the gang are linked to robberies and attempted raids over the last few days and weeks. Photo: Handout

The seven suspects were arrested for offences such as conspiracy to rob, possession of offensive weapons and resisting police arrest.

Three of them were injured when they were apprehended. They were taken to hospital for treatment.

According to a police source, the gang is believed to be involved in a series of attempted robberies in the city, as well as a hold-up on Sunday, when thieves smashed into glass cabinets to steal HK$2 million (US$255,000) worth of gold ornaments at a jewellery shop in nearby To Kwa Wan.

One of the seven suspects arrested in Ho Man Tin. Photo: Dickson Lee

Other stores were targeted in a spate of unsuccessful raids in late November across the Kowloon West region, the source added.

“In the attempted robberies, they fled empty-handed as they failed to break open the display windows,” he said.

The source said the arrests were made by the force’s hit team, made up of officers from the criminal intelligence bureau.

Second armed robbery in less than 24 hours nets Hong Kong thieves HK$3 million in valuables

As of 4pm on Tuesday, the section of the road was sealed off while officers gathered evidence as part of their investigation. Officers from the Kowloon West regional crime unit are handling the case.

On Sunday afternoon, four masked robbers broke into a jewellery shop in To Kwan Wan and made off with HK$2 million worth of gold items. They fled in a taxi driven by an accomplice at about 3.40pm.

It was one of two smash-and-grab robberies in less than 24 hours in Hong Kong. On Monday, two armed robbers wielding a sledgehammer stole HK$3 million worth of valuables from another jewellery store in Sham Shui Po. They fled in a white car driven by a third person.

The Fook Tai Jewellery shop, in Castle Peak Road, Sham Shui Po, was among those targeted during a flurry of raids in the city in recent weeks. Photo: May Tse

On November 17, four robbers threatened a Tsuen Wan shop’s employees with a knife and what appeared to be a handgun, before smashing a glass cabinet and fleeing with HK$2.5 million in jewellery and cash.

There were a number of high-profile robberies in 2017 and last year that led local jewellery and goldsmith shop owners to enhance security.

In September 2017, three thieves fled on a motorbike with HK$24 million worth of jewellery after smashing a store window with hammers at a Canton Road jewellery shop in the busy shopping district of Tsim Sha Tsui.

Police arrested three tourists from Colombia after they made off with HK$40 million worth of jewellery in a smash-and-grab robbery in Central in March 2018.

According to the force, there was almost one robbery case per day in October this year, up from one report every two to three days in 2018.

Chief Superintendent Kenneth Kwok Ka-chuen, head of the police public relations branch, said on Monday that police did not rule out the possibilities some criminals were taking advantage of ongoing social unrest to carry out robberies, with police resources tied up dealing with violent anti-government protests, which have gripped the city for nearly six months.

Armed robbers make off with HK$10 million in Tsim Sha Tsui attack

Since August, Hong Kong police have stopped patrolling city streets on foot because of staff shortages, as well as the perceived risk of being attacked by protesters. Officers are now patrolling in police vans instead.

Last month, there were three robberies within as many weeks in Tsim Sha Tsui and nearby Yau Ma Tei.

On November 27, three masked men attacked a man and his female relative, snatching her bag containing HK$1.2 million in Ashley Road, Tsim Sha Tsui.

Seven days earlier, a gang of six men attacked three mainland Chinese men and swiped their suitcase containing HK$15 million in Minden Avenue, Tsim Sha Tsui.

On November 8, four robbers made off with HK$10 million worth of watches from a shop on Kwong Wah Street, Yau Ma Tei, after one of the suspects threatened a male employee with a knife.

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