Thu, Feb 17, 2005 - Page 5 News List

HK police stock up on riot control gear for next WTO talks


A rights group expressed fears yesterday that security personnel might use excessive force against anti-globalization protesters at a WTO meeting in Hong Kong, as the territory's police stocked up on riot control equipment.

The Police Tactical Unit has ordered rubber bullets and lead-filled bean bags, Commandant Suen Kwai-leung said. The thumb-sized bean bags are fired from guns and, like rubber bullets, are intended to be non-lethal.

"The goal is to have ammunition that is slightly harmful," Suen told reporters.

Hong Kong is scheduled to host the latest round of WTO negotiations from Dec. 13 to Dec. 18 aimed at reducing tariffs and subsidies, and to agree on a treaty that will take effect next year.

Suen said the new anti-riot equipment, due to arrive by May, was necessary to bring the territory's police force up to international standards. He declined to specify exactly what the police department had ordered, and acknowledged that the police thus far have no experience using these kinds of ammunition. Suen said officers would be ordered to target only violent demonstrators.

In 1999, WTO talks in Seattle collapsed following five days of anti-globalization riots that cost US$3 million in damages. A 2001 G8 summit in Genoa, Italy, was marred by violence in which police shot a 23-year-old protester dead, at least 200 people were injured and more than 300 arrested.

Hong Kong has already indicated it might impose an entry ban on known foreign demonstrators who could be planning to disrupt the meeting. Police were gathering intelligence on anti-globalization groups.

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