As the former operational base for Hong Kong’s old Kai Tak Airport, this disused 10-storey police station mainly dealt with the day-to-day regulation of crime, security and other special operations.
Up until the mid-70s, the airport was policed by a sub-division within Kowloon City, but due to the rapid growth of air travel, the police base became a division itself in 1976 and a district in 1985. The number of officers stationed there mushroomed from 156 in 1977 to 341 at the time of its closure in 1998.
Some of the special operations handled at the base included the provision of VIP security and the supervision of 120 ‘Drumbeat Flights,’ which saw the repatriation of over 12,895 illegal Vietnamese migrants.
While many of the boat people refugees went voluntarily, some needed more force and control, and these were the ones checked in to the ‘Drumbeat Flights,’ which was the code name for forcible repatriation operations.
The first flight of these took place on the 9th of November 1991. They took place once every four to six weeks, but as 1997 drew nearer there was only one every three weeks.
On the voluntary flights, only a few officers and a government representative were needed on board, but on the ‘Drumbeat Flights’ the ratio of police to refugees was almost one-to-one to prevent any attempt at hijacking, with Police Tactical Unit officers brought in as well.
While the airport was relatively incident-free, there was a hijacking case on the 9th of March 1978, when a flight engineer aboard a China Airlines Boeing 737-200 attacked the pilot and co-pilot with a hammer and scissors.
While the plane was bound for Hong Kong, the hijacker demanded to be taken to China. The episode lasted less than a day, and the hijacker was shot.
Unlike normal police bases, there was no resident population in the surrounding district but there was a daily workforce of about 26,381 permanent staff for the airport. The station was closed in 1998, when a massive operation took place to relocate 10,000 vehicles, 70 barges of equipment and 30 aircraft to the new airport.
During this period, convoys and significant numbers of large, out-of-gauge, vehicles were moved under police escort and special traffic management measures were implemented with special arrangements also in place to handle movements over Tsing Ma Bridge.
Current plans are to demolish the building and build a new 17-storey integrated complex for the Kowloon East Police Regional Headquarters and Operational Base.
This will bring various operational units under one roof and allow the armoury and transport facilities to be shared. But assuredly, the armouries here are almost completely empty – there are no ammunition or weapon parts or other sensitive materials.