SVA Comment on Occupy Central – Not “Armageddon”

Security experts and risk assessment analysts have weighed in with their take on the possible impact of a mass civil disobedience protest in the heart of Hong Kong.

The Occupy Central protest, which has threatened to mobilise up to 10,000 people to block the streets of the business district, would not be "Armageddon", said one former police officer turned security specialist, a view that has been echoed by risk analysts at a number of the city's big finance firms.

"I don't see major strife. I don't see the PLA moving in," said Steve Vickers, CEO of political and corporate risk consultancy Steve Vickers and Associates.

"It's not the core movement, but splinter groups that could cause trouble," the former head of the police criminal intelligence bureau said.

Vickers last week released a threat assessment for the planned protest, outlining the possible scenarios that could take place. According to him, the most likely one is some disruption to business, but limited violence and nothing compared to the World Trade Organisation protests in 2005.

"Confrontational elements linked to Occupy Central could cause some disruption in Central, by blocking road access and MTR exits, so impairing business activity - at least until the police gain control," said Vickers.

"A little amount of violence may occur around the edges of any such action. Disruption to business would be notable, but manageable." There is a lot of paranoia surrounding Occupy Central, but any violence would likely only be caused by fringe elements of the protesters themselves or pro-mainland groups, Vickers said.

A number of other risk consultancy groups, including Control Risks and Risk Advisory, said they had not been commissioned to do a threat assessment for the Occupy Central protests.

Daniel Chui, head of investor communications at the investment bank JP Morgan, said: "Every year, sometimes twice a year, we have business continuity planning tests to make sure we're prepared for any contingency."

In a statement, Citibank echoed the sentiment, adding that 98 per cent of its transactions happen online.

A source at a large international financial firm in Central, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the subject, said: "All banks are prepared for any event, and this is no different. What is there to worry about? We have no idea about the actual number of protesters or when they will strike. Maybe local banks are more concerned, but the Occupy protests in Hong Kong have never been as hard-core as in London or the US."