Police in Hong Kong have imported a new type of anti-riot body armor from China which are said to be lightweight and bulletproof and can reportedly protect against attacks using sharp and flammable objects.
Kong Wing-chueng, Hong Kong Police Force’s Senior Superintendent, said Tuesday that new protective suits were purchased for police who have been confronting over 12 weeks of violent pro-democracy protests.
“As a responsible employer, we purchase any equipment that provides the best protection to our officers,” he said, according to the Post.
Sources told the South China Morning Post that 500 sets of the suits had been purchased from a manufacturer in China. Police sources told the Post that it was the first time Hong Kong forces received supplies from the mainland, having previously imported gear from the United Kingdom or France. Britain suspended its sale of teargas and other crowd control equipment to Hong Kong in June, citing allegations of police brutality against protesters.
Chinese state tabloid Global Times confirmed the order for 500 sets of the anti-riot armor, citing the suits developers, Guangzhou-based Guangzhou Weifu Science & Technology Development. According to the report, the armor is more lightweight than other suits used by police, and provide better protection against knives, bullets, and flammable objects.
According to the Times, Guangzhou Weifu Science & Technology Development also provide protective gear to other countries, including Israel, Iraq, Morocco and Jordan. The company says on its website that it has worked on over a dozen projects with China’s Ministry of Public Security.
A Hong Kong police source told the Post that each suit costs $420, while the Times estimates that suits cost roughly $670. The police source told the Post that the suits were “bullet-resistant” and could protect officers from sharp objects and small firearms, like a “.22 caliber handgun.”
Police told the Post that the suits had been delivered on Friday to Ngau Tau Kok police station in East Kowloon, and were then distributed to other officers stationed across the city.
The suit appears similar to those used by Chinese forces and has been compared to “RoboCop”
The suits appear similar to those used by Chinese police in Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong and has seen a buildup of Chinese troops within the last few weeks. The suits feature scaled shoulder armor which also runs along their arms, a protective chest plate and jointed leg coverings, and were used in joint training exercises earlier this month.
The suits have garnered comparisons to “RoboCop,” a 1987 American film character who was a cyborg law enforcement officer.
The futuristic armor arrives as tensions in Hong Kong continue to escalate.
On Sunday, protesters clashed with police in the Tsuen Wan area in Hong Kong’s north. An offshoot group of protesters hurled Molotov cocktails at forces and reportedly chased police with metal pipes. Police responded by pointing live firearms at protesters, with one firing a warning shot into the air.
Police also used water cannons to disperse crowds for the first time since protests began.
On Tuesday, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam vowed to tackle protests using any legal means necessary and did not rule out invoking sweeping emergency powers to quell the violence.
“All laws in Hong Kong – if they can provide a legal means to stop violence and chaos – the [Hong Kong] government is responsible for looking into them,” Lam said.