How police or private security can help in MTR’s basic service|Comment HK|

How police or private security can help in MTR’s basic service

Updated: 2019-11-14 07:42

(HK Edition)

Ever since it first opened, 40 years ago, Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway has been a shining example of the efficiency and “can do” spirit of the city. It very soon became a much-respected and appreciated Hong Kong icon, and its wide-ranging and reliable public transport services became the envy of the world. It has been much emulated in other cities and recognized as the best metro system on the planet. On an average day, some 5 million passenger journeys are made swiftly and safely, greatly contributing to Hong Kong’s economic success.

But for months now, MTR’s high levels of efficiency are just a memory for its vast commuting public, thanks to the indiscriminate vandalism of hundreds of “protesting” young black-shirted thugs who have caused massive disruption, inconvenience, and growing physical danger to many ordinary local citizens, not to mention untold economic loss. On Monday, an elderly man was set ablaze by these ruthless “black-shirts” for daring to disagree with them, and a lorry driver was beaten up for attempting to clear obstacles set up by the blackshirts.

A large majority of Hong Kong’s over 90 metro stations have been seriously vandalized by the blackshirts, with many forced to close until they can be repaired. Let us hope that the mostly glass panels comprising the pedestrian barriers between different parts of these stations, many of which the vandals have smashed up, can be replaced by barriers made of wood or metal, which cannot so easily be destroyed.

MTR was, until recently, a hugely profitable company, and so has the ample resources needed to recover quickly from the wanton vandalizing of its facilities. Since the overstretched police force is not likely to assign officers to guard it, MTR must hire a security service capable of standing up to the blackshirts. It may prove to be more economical in the long term than endlessly repairing its facilities now being vandalized on an almost daily basis. Ensuring that the millions of commuters get to work on time would also contribute immensely to the local economy.

The hard-pressed Hong Kong Police Force is right to recall to service about 1,000 recently retired officers to help plug the gaps in manpower that this current state of near-anarchy has highlighted. Indeed, this measure can and should be greatly extended to rehire many thousands more retired officers to take over many of the routine police duties, thus freeing up many of their younger in-service comrades for anti-riot operations.

Here are some suggestions as to what could be done to better protect MTR passengers and facilities. Firstly, hard decisions need to be made about maintaining only a skeleton service. For example, closing every other station for the duration; and closing completely those stations (such as Mong Kok) that are frequently vandalized. Security advice should be sought from experts about which entrances to block off at the remaining open stations, ideally leaving only one or two entrances open at each; that would make them more readily defendable by MTR’s private security, if not the police.

Often, the black-shirts spend considerable time smashing up a station, and yet the riot-geared police will usually arrive only after the costly vandalism is over. Clearly, police intervention needs to be speeded up significantly. If that is not possible, perhaps a squad of, say, 20 fully armed police officers could be posted at each station. There would be several advantages to such an arrangement. It would have a deterrent effect on the blackshirts. Stun guns, rubber bullets and the like need to be used more readily by the police to neutralize the more violent protesters everywhere.

With the presence of private security, or police officers, passenger safety would be dramatically enhanced in view of the numerous assaults that took place within MTR premises. The police squad within each station would need to take great care that none of its members gets separated from the main body to prevent them from being cornered and assaulted by rampaging mobs of blackshirts as has happened before.

Only in such ways can the Hong Kong traveling public continue to have at least a bare-bones MTR service, and the black-shirts’ violence and vandalism be curbed.

Other places that are regular targets of the blackshirts must also have protective squads of police officers permanently deployed to protect them, although this probably would have to wait until the Hong Kong Police Force has substantially boosted its numbers through the recall to service of its retired officers.

(HK Edition 11/14/2019 page7)

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