Unprecedented security measures are in place in the Legislative Council Wednesday hours before lawmakers begin deliberations on a Beijing-backed election reform bill.
Police have been allowed into the Legco building for the first time since Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.
The deployment began Tuesday evening after Legco President Jasper Tsang said the decision had been made in consultation with the Legco secretariat.
Ming Pao Daily is reporting that a three-level security alert has been raised to yellow, meaning all necessary precautions are in place.
Tsang said increased police presence and other security measures such as barriers are necessary to prevent disruptions and ensure the safety of legislators.
He said the decision was taken after the secretariat received a police report that activist group Civic Passion might launch an attack overnight.
It followed the discovery of explosives, maps and plans linked to a radical group in an alleged bomb plot.
Ten people were arrested during a police raid on the group’s hideout in Sai Kung on Monday.
On Tuesday, the government said the police will deploy officers based on their own assessment of the security situation.
They will be equipped to quickly respond to any security threats to Legco members and staff and prevent any disruptions
Last year, a group of protesters smashed glass doors in an attempt to storm the Legco building during the democracy demonstrations.
The government will table the controversial election bill Wednesday afternoon for debate. Voting is expected within the week.
Pro-democracy lawmakers said the heightened security alert is premature.
Labor Party leader Lee Cheuk-yan said the police deployment creates the appearance that Legco lacks independence.
Tsang defended the move, saying negligence about security matters could have serious consequences if violence erupts.
He cited reports that supporters and opponents of the bill are planning competing rallies outside Legco which would require police presence to maintain order.
Tsang did not give the exact number of officers on deployment but said a maximum security alert will be raised in case of grave danger inside the chamber.
Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong said it’s better to be “over concerned” about safety issues than to overlook them.
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