The following is the speech "Making the Olympics Safe -
The Challenges of Policing the Greatest Show on Earth" delivered by the Commissioner of Police, Mr Tang King-shing, at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Hong Kong today (July 16): (in English only)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Olympic Games are frequently described as the "greatest show on earth"; a show at which the peoples of the world join the excitement as the Planet's finest athletes seek personal and national glory.
In terms of excitement the viewing public are rarely disappointed,
whether fortunate enough to attend the events or like most, watch on
television from the comfort of armchairs at their home or from bars, like here at the Foreign Correspondents' Club. However, what they often overlook, is that the few short weeks of highly visible, action-packed events can only take place as a result of an extensive network of support and organisation that has taken years to put into place.
Today, I will share with you an important part of that support and
organisational network, namely how we, in the Hong Kong Police are doing our part to ensure that all aspects of the Games as they affect our City will be safe.
The 29th Summer Olympic Games is now only three weeks away and our preparations are now entering their final stage. Whilst the overwhelming majority of the events will be held in Beijing, there will also be six other co-host cities - Shanghai, Qinhuangdao, Shenyang, Tianjin, Qingdao and Hong Kong.
A key factor for successfully hosting the Olympics in all these
cities will be the security which surrounds all aspects of the events
themselves and the safety of all persons involved. But how does one make sure the Olympic events are safe and secure for everyone?
In Hong Kong we start from a very solid foundation. Firstly, we have
a good deal of experience in planning for and managing large international occasions, experience that has been fine tuned in the past few years with several high profile events held in our City. I am sure many of you recall the 10th Anniversary Celebrations last year and the WTO Ministerial Conference at the end of 2005.
This experience has helped us develop the philosophy that we adopt
when approaching such tasks - an approach that comprises two key elements.
Of initial importance is the need for us to make as early a start as
possible and to involve all stakeholders in a comprehensive multi-agency approach from the outset. Secondly, and equally as important we need to cater for all possible eventualities.
Before looking at these components in greater detail, let me take a
look at what challenges the Olympics present.
Whilst the Olympic Games are for the vast majority of people a
festive sporting occasion, there are others who view them as an opportunity to either promote or achieve certain aims. The intense media focus that the Games now attract means that anyone with an axe to grind, anyone with a cause to highlight, anyone with a "wrong" that they believe needs to be "righted", sees the Olympics as the perfect opportunity to further these points of view through various forms of demonstrations.
In planning for, and managing these demonstrations our utmost
priority is the safety of the participants, the general public and police
duties. At the same time a balance must also be found to protect the
rights of the public to express their views, and for others to enjoy the
Games in the true Olympic spirit and to go about their daily lives with the minimum of inconvenience, annoyance or disturbance.
Earlier in the year you have seen the demonstrations associated with
the Olympic Torch Relay and how this proved to be a significant challenge for security authorities and organisers around the globe. I believe the general consensus amongst the majority of the community here in Hong Kong is that in meeting this challenge we did get the balance right, and this is something we will strive for again during the Olympics.
However, it isn't just demonstrations that we must plan for and
manage. Apart from crowd management and logistics tasks associated with making sure the large number of people converging on the venues are guided safely through thoroughfares and transport interchanges, we also need to guard against the ever-present threat of terrorism.
Some might be surprised that the Beijing Olympics are considered a
target for terrorism but let's not forget that, whilst on the one hand,
China has its own extremists and separatists, on the other, the Olympics are of global interest to the vast majority of countries, irrespective of political, religious or economic standpoints. These countries will supply the many competitors as well as the many millions of television viewers. The Games will therefore be the focus of world attention and the attraction to any terrorist group intent on creating disruption to promote their cause cannot be understated.
So, returning to our philosophy on how to make our part of the Games
safe, we did make an early start. Indeed preparations by the Force began even before we knew it had been confirmed that Hong Kong would be a host city!
We have been developing our skills and researching scenarios that
could take place at international events such as this for many years now. So when it was announced that the Equestrian Events would be held in Hong Kong we were already in a position to hit the ground running, or galloping, if you would excuse the pun!
Such preparations have included paper research, observer and study
visits. To give you a few examples, we have collected and reviewed an
impressive array of "After Action Reviews" from previous large scale events held around the world; we have also sent officers to observe the policing arrangements for international events such as the G8, Sydney Olympic Games, Asian Games, APEC and WTO Meetings.
Perhaps even more importantly officers have also visited host
countries following the conclusion of the events and after the various
"wash ups" have been held. In this way we have been able to discuss with the responsible authorities, how their safety and security arrangements worked out in practice and, of course, what lessons they had learnt.
All of these preparations have involved a significant commitment in
terms of time and financial resources but this is undoubtedly now paying dividends as our pool of knowledge and experience continues to grow and be put into practice.
The cooperation that we have received from our international law
enforcement counterparts has also been impressive but this also has not been left to chance.
We have invested heavily in maintaining our liaison channels across
the Globe and embarked on a number of measures to ensure the vigorous two-way flow of best practice. This included the Force hosting an Observer Scheme for our law enforcement partners to view the WTO Conference policing operation in 2005, which attracted over 70 overseas observers, and widely distributing our comprehensive, 400 page, "After Action Review" to other law-enforcement agencies and interested parties following the event.
But this groundwork has only given us a good foundation on which to
start building our plans.
Upon the official announcement that Hong Kong was to host the
Equestrian Events, an organisational structure was established that
involved a host of task-specific committees and as a consequence a whole range of stakeholders. Principal partners included government bodies, such as the Home Affairs Bureau, as well as private ones, such as the Equestrian Company and the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
However the whole point of a comprehensive multi-agency approach is
to include everyone who has a role to play, not just the principal
partners. The major benefit of this approach is that it enables the police to provide as unobtrusive a presence as possible during what is in essence a festive occasion, with the capacity for rapid escalation as part of coordinated contingency plans to deal with any eventuality.
When thinking of safety and security, there are so many other
stakeholders who can assist; groups and individuals who simply do their own jobs better than the police can do it for them. It is these people that we have brought into the plan, that we have engaged and that we have involved.
In many cases all that will be required is for them to do what they do best on a daily basis, but with the full knowledge that an event such as this entails so much and they must be fully prepared for it.
I have already mentioned Government Departments and the two principal non-government stakeholders, but in addition to them the remaining government bodies that have less significant, but nevertheless important roles to play, have been brought into the process. We have also involved private businesses, public transport operators, the Consular Corps, the community at large and, of course, you, the media.
Many government departments are affected by, or can affect, the
safety and security arrangements for an occasion such as the Olympics. To give you a few examples, a burst water main can mean that prearranged security measures may need to be altered if spectators cannot arrive via designated transport routes; the airspace over venues needs to be properly controlled; and the venues and immediate vicinity need to be cleaned and maintained in the least disruptive manner possible if the events are to proceed smoothly and safely.
Whilst we can, and do, offer advice and guidance, all this
preparatory planning, as well as subsequent implementation is much better done by those with the relevant knowledge, experience and expertise.
The same factors also affect private businesses, especially those
with a direct involvement in the events, but also some with a peripheral involvement as well. Service providers to the events, such as caterers, utilities and telecommunications services to name just a few, all need to implement their own security measures because they know their own environments better than the police do. Of course, we can help with advice and assistance, but that's no substitute for individuals looking after their own interests.
Similarly, spectators to the events will primarily use Hong Kong's
extensive and very efficient public transport network. Again, the best way to make this safe and secure is for the systems' operators to implement their own operator specific measures. Measures that we advise on and support but that we cannot undertake in their entirety.
Of course, no event can succeed in itself without the support of the
participants and the community at large, something that was very evident in Hong Kong during the recent Olympic Torch Relay. Subsequently, the Government and Force has already embarked on a campaign to raise public awareness and involvement.
For the international community and the participants, we can most
effectively keep them informed through the Consular Corps, who we have already briefed and will continue to keep up to date with any new
information that comes to light.
For the community at large, we need to manage their expectations of
the event and its impact upon them from the security perspective. In this regard, we have briefed the District Councils and are conducting a series of community and sectoral briefings.
We are also mindful that despite the significance of the Equestrian
Events they will only be with us for a few months, something of a case of "here today, gone tomorrow". Whereas the local community are our long-term customers and partners in ensuring Hong Kong remains one of the safest and most stable societies in the world!
The Force is therefore cognisant of the importance of being able to
maintain our normal law and order obligations together with a capability to deal with other emergencies, such as the recent incidents of flooding and landslides associated with the heavy rains in June.
On this note, the public may rest assured we will be able to provide
them a high level of service throughout the period with the assistance of a number of additional measures to negate the impact of the Equestrian Events on our resources. These include a leave restriction, prioritisation of non-essential services, mobilisation of additional Auxiliary police officers and a parallel command structure to be implemented if a major non-Olympic emergency occurs.
Opportunities to speak at events such as this are ideal in helping
the Police spread the message of what we have planned for the Equestrian Events. It also allows us to reassure people both locally and overseas that we are well prepared.
Obviously, you the media have considerable reach in spreading this
positive message and reassuring communities. With this in mind we will keep you advised of the latest developments through regular press releases and prompt responses to enquiries.
Before moving on to look at the final element of our philosophy,
preparing for all possible contingencies, there is one more group of
stakeholders who mustn't be forgotten, our internal clients. The buy in and support of our own officers makes the difference between a job just done, and a job well done!
Police officers are human, they are of course disciplined and will
perform as directed, but they do it so much better when you involve them in the process, engage them in generating ideas and let them know what's going on.
For officers, at all levels, we have arranged briefings, visits and
brainstorming sessions and continue to keep them aware of the latest
developments through a dedicated website.
Whilst frontline officers deployed specifically to Olympic duties
have been formed into Task Forces to create a sense of esprit de corps, and provided specific event and venue related training to ensure they are well prepared for the duties they will be required to perform.
On a related issue many of the duties performed by our frontline
staff dealing with the Olympics will be arduous and stressful in nature
securing venues, managing crowds and, probably on occasions, being challenged by emotionally charged demonstrators. Situations where officers must be alert at all times, where there can be no yielding to pressure, and where they must always display calm and reason however heated a situation may become.
Psychological studies following similar international events,
including our experience from the WTO Ministerial Conference in 2005, reveals a major motivator for frontline staff in these circumstances is the support of the community and positive media coverage. With this in mind I would encourage the community at large, and the media, to bear in mind the physical and emotional stresses my officers will be under during this period and to offer whatever support they can.
So, to the final component of our philosophy - the need to prepare
for all possible contingencies.
Experience has taught us that whilst we can readily scale down our
preparations should they not be needed, escalating security measures at short notice is no easy matter. Proper planning and preparations takes months to put in place, in some cases much longer, if they are to be successfully employed. For this reason we need to examine and prepare for everything that might be expected to happen, from the best to the worst.
At the most basic level we prepare for all possible eventualities by
developing contingency plans and setting them out in writing. As part of the process we identify the resources needed for the plan and dedicate them for that purpose. Then finally we exercise those plans in all their details, both through table-top exercises and on the ground. The benefit of this thoroughness was shown during the WTO Ministerial Conference in 2005 when many of our contingency plans were used.
This brings me to the end of my short introduction on how we have
prepared for this very complex and important event. What I have shared with you today in the short time available is a bird's eye view of what will, by the time it is implemented, have taken two years to put in place.
It is a very simple explanation of the comprehensive multi-agency
approach to be adopted and what up to 4 000 Police Officers will be doing this summer to provide a safe and secure environment for the Olympics in Hong Kong.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it has been my great privilege to address you
today. I have mentioned earlier that engagement with media representatives plays an important part in any major operation of this nature and I am most willing to respond to any questions you may have that fall within my purview.
Police Report No.3