BEIJING, Sept. 11 -- Ten months after its establishment, Beijing's riot police squad, known as the Special Police Force (SPF), has become China's strongest and best-equipped police unit, according to a senior minister.
Liu Jinguo, vice-minister of public security, made the remark during the unit's first public demonstration of its crowd control, hostage rescue and bomb disposal work last week.
"With this team, we're confident that we can handle all emergencies in the city, including terrorist attacks, and ensure a safe 2008 Beijing Olympic Games," Xue Xiaoming, the unit's deputy director, told China Daily in an exclusive interview ahead of the 5th anniversary of "9/11," which falls Monday.
The unit's 970 members have been selected from different departments under the city's public security bureau, such as the patrol brigade, and criminal investigation and security check departments.
They will undergo at least two years of intensive training and become experts in martial arts, counter-terrorism, riot control and hostage rescue.
Xue said the team was responsible for dealing with unexpected incidents in the city and could fight against heavily armed gangsters.
"Beijing is an international metropolis with a low crime rate," he said. "But to prevent and handle emergencies and to safeguard the Games, we need a strong force."
With its headquarters based in south Beijing's Xihongmen, the team is divided into six detachments, including a flying unit, a diving squad and a police-dog unit.
The air unit will have four helicopters that will help the unit's airborne law enforcement capabilities. The diving unit will be responsible for salvage and underwater criminal investigation in the city's reservoirs, lakes and rivers.
Xue said the city had set up a rapid response system in case of any emergencies. He explained that after an accident is reported to the "110" emergency hotline, police headquarters will decide whether the SPF should be involved.
The team has set up separate response plans for nine categories of emergencies, such as explosions, kidnappings, hijackings and riots.
The latest emergency to involve the SPF happened on Aug. 7 at Beijing Railway Station.
A man with weapons and explosives hijacked a long-distance bus from Northeast China's Liaoning Province to Beijing with 28 passengers on board. Twenty SPF members arrived at the scene 10 minutes after the first call. They resolved the incident after telling passengers to ask the hijacker if they could go to the restroom.
While they were talking, SPF members subdued the hijacker and confiscated a homemade gun with five bullets in an incident in which there were no casualties.
Although they are strong, decisive and brave, SPF members have admitted to sometimes feeling nervous.
Li Xin, a 24-year-old SPF member, said he is sometimes worried when he is called out on duty.
"But when I get to the scene, I forget all danger and concentrate on what's ahead of me."
He told China Daily about the units' daily schedule, which involves a 6am start, and training and rest throughout the day.
He said sometimes they had evening exercises starting from about 8p.m. If there is no training, they often play basketball, table tennis or read books. Everyone goes to bed at 10 pm.
"It's actually the same as army life," he said.
Their salary is much the same as that of ordinary policemen in Beijing. Li said he gets more than 2,000 yuan (250 U.S. dollars) a month with three free meals a day.
Li said he does not have a girlfriend. "I don't have time," he said. "Although theoretically we can go back home once a week for two days, it's more common to go home once a month because of training."
SPF departments have been set up in 36 cities across the country, according to the Ministry of Public Security.
(Source: China Daily)