On the front lines of the unrest in Hong Kong are the Raptors, an elite subdivision of the Hong Kong Police Force. Their official name is the Special Tactical Squad, but that moniker doesn’t really cover everything the Raptors do, from crowd control and riot control to clearing roadblocks and infiltrating disruptive groups. The STS was created in the midst of chaos and will be there whenever Hong Kong descends back into it.
The Special Tactical Squad was formed in 2014 in the middle of the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong, a civil unrest that was a response to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress’ efforts to undermine the democratic system in Hong Kong. The police response to the 100,000 protestors that flooded the city’s streets was underwhelming. They had no apparatus in place to handle such protests. The Raptors were created to contain the widespread protests and were deployed in 2016 during the “Fishball Revolution” and are again deployed on the streets.
Every time the Chinese government tries to impose its will on the city of Hong Kong, its people crowd the streets in massive protests, and the Raptors are called in. The latest protests see upwards of a million people protesting in the streets in 2019.
Around the Police Tactical Unit, which the Special Tactical Squad is a part of, they’re called the “Removal Team,” as they’re usually tasked with removing debris and clearing roadblocks, as well as removing unruly protesters. For the last, the local media call them “The Professional Removal Team.” When the Hong Kong police are overwhelmed, the Raptors special training and gear are able to work over crowds in sizes that regular police forces just couldn’t manage. Now they’re doing much more than responding to civil unrest – they’re actively preventing it.
People close to the organized protests say Raptors officers went undercover in protest groups to undermine the most radical protesters. On Aug. 12, Raptors arrested 15 organizers in a carefully coordinated decoy operation to remove the most violent of rioters. The Raptors are now being comprised of counterterrorism officers, which probably explains the shift in tactics on the ground. Protestors with a violent past can now be arrested in secret.
The Raptors would usually have just done battle with those protesters. Times sure have changed.