Terrorists targeted Hong Kong during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a cable released by whistleblowing website WikiLeaks shows – but the government last night insisted there was no specific threat here.
A government statement said that counterterrorist intelligence was “generally vague and changed frequently” and that police had liaised closely with mainland and overseas authorities.
It added that police had maintained a high degree of vigilance and operational readiness during the Olympics.
In the cable released by WikiLeaks, Dan Piccuta, former deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Beijing, said al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, tasked former East Turkestan terrorists to travel to China to conduct terrorist attacks at the Olympics.
Potential targets included Hong Kong and Shanghai, the Olympics opening and closing ceremonies, Olympic programs and VIP tourists.
The Piccuta cable was quoting a Chinese intelligence officer in early July 2008. The terrorists were apparently bomb experts and carried micro-bomb- making material in plastic products, jewelry and crystal ornaments across the border with them.
The al-Qaeda and East Turkestan terrorist groups were given different targets.
Hotels in Hong Kong were told to be on alert for suspicious characters amid heightened Olympic security fears. However, Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong had denied suggestions that police would employ ethnic profiling tactics and specifically target tourists from Tibet and Xinjiang.
Lee rated the risk assessment as being moderate but did not rule out the possibility of raising it if there were incidents in neighboring regions or accurate intelligence to indicate Hong Kong was facing security threats.
Separately, then-director of immigration Simon Peh Yun-lu said the department had received intelligence that the equestrian events in Hong Kong were under threat of attack.
In another revelation, former Australian leader Kevin Rudd told the United States it should be prepared to use force against China “if everything goes wrong.”
He told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Chinese leaders were “paranoid” about Taiwan and Tibet, and his push for a new Asia-Pacific body was designed to contain Chinese influence.