If you believe Senior Superintendent Leung Wai-ki, head of Hong Kong’s Inter-departmental Counter Terrorism Unit (ICTU), “radicals” and “extremists” are hiding in our midst while they plan terrorist attacks on next month’s Legislative Council (LegCo) elections and popular city festivals, such as Chinese New Year.

To demonstrate his group’s readiness to face down these dangerous culprits, the ICTU – bringing together officers from the Hong Kong Police Force, the Customs and Excise Department, the Correctional Services Department, the Fire Services Department, the Government Flying Services and the Immigration Department – staged a series of simulated attacks last Friday that ranged from a single terrorist carrying explosives in a suitcase to chemical, biological and even nuclear strikes. 

Senior Superintendent Leung Wai-ki Photo: Leo Ma/HKFP.

According to Leung, the 300 officers who took part in the 90-minute drill, which played out at West Kowloon Station, successfully demonstrated their ability to neutralise any bad actors secreted among us. These murderous villains presumably include the callow likes of the 15- and 16-year-old members of the student activist group, Returning Valiant, who are apparently such a menace to society that they must be jailed without bail and charged under the national security law with incitement to overthrow the government and conspiracy to commit acts of terror.

After all, who knows when the next radical cell of pubescent teens is going to launch a nuclear strike on our city?

Inter-departmental counter-terrorism exercise “Tigerpace.” Photo: Leo Ma/HKFP.

Leung and the ICTU are poised and waiting. 

Perhaps it’s wrong for this writer to make light of possible terror attacks in Hong Kong, but Leung himself admitted that the ICTU currently has no specific evidence pointing to any potential attack. And he certainly brings no credit to himself or to the ICTU when, to justify last Friday’s spectacle, he references Returning Valiant as well as the almost certainly deranged individual who killed himself after stabbing a police officer in July, on the 24th anniversary of the city’s handover from British to Chinese rule.

Photo: Stand News.

The officer would survive while his attacker, Leung Kin-fai, a 50-year-old employee at Vitasoy International before his death, was celebrated online by some misguided Hongkongers no doubt still angered by what many deemed the excessive use of force by the Hong Kong police during the months-long anti-government protests of 2019 and 2020. 

Understandably, praise for the assailant, which included a motion by the since-disbanded student union at the University of Hong Kong thanking him for his “sacrifice to Hong Kong,” incensed police officers and other members of the city’s disciplined services, not to mention many ordinary, law-abiding citizens. 

But by no stretch of the imagination was Leung’s assault a major act of terror that threatened the city. Rather, it was a demented attack by a lone individual that, by the way, could not have been prevented by any of the deft manoeuvres performed by the ICTU last Friday.

All this is not to say that Hongkongers should not worry about a future terrorist strike in their city. Indeed, the more oppressive and authoritarian the Hong Kong government becomes, the more likely it is that such an event will occur. 

Publicity materials promoting the Legislative Council election scheduled on December 19, 2021. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Since the enactment of the Beijing-imposed national security law in the summer of 2020, all meaningful opposition to the central and Hong Kong governments has been wiped out by the new mandate that only “patriots” – that is, those who kowtow to Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his underlings – can govern Hong Kong. 

The heavily vetted winners of next month’s LegCo elections will be little more than a collection of lackeys serving Beijing. Nary a dissenting word will be heard. 

What happens to all the opposition voices and mass protests for democracy and freedom of assembly and expression that were such an integral part of Hong Kong life before being swept away by the national security law?

They don’t just disappear, you know. They go underground, where they fester and burn. 

That’s the danger for Hong Kong. 


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Kent Ewing

Kent Ewing is a teacher and writer who has lived in Hong Kong for more than two decades. He has written for the South China Morning Post, The Standard, Asia Times and Asia Sentinel. Allegations to the contrary, he insists he is not a colonial fossil. Follow him on Twitter.