Hong Kong police will seal off roads, flyovers and footbridges in the areas where Chinese leader Xi Jinping is expected to visit and pass by on Friday, when the city marks 25 years since its Handover from Britain to China.

Barriers outside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

Police on Tuesday announced their high-level security deployment for the planned visit on July 1, when Xi is set to attend events celebrating Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule 25 years ago. He will also inaugurate the new administration led by incoming chief executive John Lee.

Barriers outside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

Assistant Commissioner of Police, Operations Lui Kam-ho said the Force was “duty-bound” to ensure the personal safety and security of the Chinese leader by providing a motorcade escort and personal protection.

A “core security zone” will be set up in the areas where Xi is expected to stay, visit and pass by, while the areas on the periphery will also be listed as security zones. The top brass said traffic and pedestrian diversions will be put in place, including closing down footbridges and flyovers temporarily during the passage of Xi’s motorcade.

A police van outside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

Admiralty and Wan Chai North will be most affected by the security measures, police said. The area around the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre to the north of Convention Avenue will be sealed off between Thursday and Friday. People and vehicles entering the area will be subject to security screening, such as checking their identification and belongings.

Police officers outside West Kowloon Station. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

The Exhibition Centre MTR station will be shut down on Thursday and Friday, while 23 bus routes terminating at Wan Chai North and 30 bus routes that pass through the area will relocate their terminus or be diverted.

The Civil Aviation Department will set up temporary restricted flying zones near Victoria Harbour and several other designated areas, Lui said, as the police and the Government Flying Service are set to engage in frequent flying tasks during the security operation. Aircraft and flying objects will be banned from entering the restricted zones.

The closed off exit to the Hong Kong West Kowloon Station at Austin Station. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

Small unmanned aircraft including drones will also be barred from flying anywhere in the city during Xi’s visit, police said, following a “careful consideration of the risk assessment.” Police reviewed drones attacks abroad, the technological advancement of drones and their latest intelligence in devising the short-term ban, Lui said, adding that the regulation will be imposed by invoking section 19 of the newly enacted Small Unmanned Aircraft Order.

The assistant police chief said the Force had not received any notifications from any organisation to hold public events on the Handover anniversary. But a public activities area will be set aside outside the security zone, while citizens may also submit petition letters at a designated area.

Police officers outside West Kowloon Station. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

“We appeal to people who will take part in public events to comply with the instructions of our officers at the scene and to comply with the latest anti-epidemic and social distancing requirements in accordance with the relevant regulations,” Lui said, adding he understood that the police security measure may cause “a certain degree of inconvenience” to the public.

West Kowloon Station. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

Shortly before the police deployment announcement, the League of Social Democrats, one of Hong Kong’s last remaining active pro-democracy groups, said that they would not hold any protests on the 25th Handover anniversary after some of its volunteers were summoned for meetings by national security police.

Police vans parked outside West Kowloon Station. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

Asked to comment on the level of security risks in Hong Kong, Ho said the current assessment showed it was “medium,” with no “concrete intelligence” to suggest that Hong Kong would be subject to a terrorist attack.

Police officers outside West Kowloon Station. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

But the top brass pointed to what he described as an insurgence of local terrorism in recent years, saying the Force had seized guns and explosives in arrest operations, which were similar to the weapons used in terrorist attacks overseas. Police were therefore “highly concerned” that Xi may be threatened by terrorist attacks during his visit, Lui said.

Barriers outside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

“Because of geopolitics and the international [political] landscape, the president of our country coming to Hong Kong to attend this event will definitely be the focus of the world,” the assistant police commissioner said.

Kenneth Kwok, assistant commissioner of police, special duty, support, said the Force would do their best to provide assistance to the press and facilitate media work “as long as police operation was not undermined.”

Police officers outside West Kowloon Station. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

He said the Information Services Department (ISD) would be responsible for coordinating with journalists reporting inside the celebration venues, and official footage and information will be released at intervals throughout the day. More than 100 officers from the Police Public Relations Branch will be deployed to handle media liaison work outside the celebration venues.

Meanwhile, authorities have further tightened media coverage of the anniversary events, from which at least 10 outlets – including HKFP – have been denied access to on the grounds of Covid-19. The ISD said the new arrangements were “in view of the latest epidemic situation.”

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.