Crowd dispersal rehearsals involving up to 1,000 police officers were conducted at the Wong Chuk Hang police academy on Saturday and Sunday, raising speculation that authorities are gearing up to clear the protest sites of the Occupy movement soon, Sing Tao Daily reported on Monday.
The police force is understood to have reviewed and realigned their strategies against the pro-democracy campaign in anticipation of clearing operations that might be required in line with the restraining orders issued by the court against the street occupation.
Other sources have pointed to speculation that the central government might have ordered all protest sites be cleared by force right after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting to be held in Beijing from Nov. 10 to 11.
The rehearsals started at around 5 p.m. on Saturday with about 40 police coaches bringing the participants to the police academy, and the drills lasted for two hours.
Police had conducted rehearsals as early as mid-August, deploying over 2,600 officers, but senior officials felt the need to revise their strategies to incorporate the lessons gained from handling protesters over the past month, according to the newspaper.
Over the weekend police officers were briefed on the right timing to use their batons and the correct procedures for using them, sources close to the police said.
Pepper fog machines were also demonstrated during the exercises, which meant they could be used to disperse crowds at the protest sites.
At a regular press briefing on Sunday, police spokesman Steve Hui did not respond when asked whether the machines would be used against the protesters, but stressed that the police have the ability and confidence to carry out law enforcement duties.
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