Fears over fake Chinese police car
A VEHICLE bearing the insignia of a notorious Chinese security agency has been spotted on the streets of Hobart - mirroring similar sightings interstate as pro-democracy students demonstrate on the streets of Hong Kong.
A former Hong Konger now resident in Hobart says he believes the appearance of the vehicle was designed to send a clear and chilling message to local activists.
Police said they were investigating the report, which Greens leader Cassy O'Connor said was "disturbing".
The witness, who requested his name not be published, said he was concerned to see the Chinese-made utility drive into his unit block bearing Chinese language decals saying "city management" and "law enforcement" and the word "Chengguan" in western script last week.
The Chengguan municipal police are known and feared in China as an often violent arm of local law enforcement.
"It's an apartment complex and I recognise most of the cars here. A big white ute drove in and it caught my eye because we don't have anyone who has a white ute here," he said.
"Then I saw the text on the side of the ute and I was pretty frightened. On the bonnet there are two Chinese characters, the direct translation is 'urban management' or 'city management'.
"This is one of the law enforcement units in mainland China. The city management are known for silencing pro-democratic supporters, human rights activists, lawyers, journalists."
The man said he locked his doors, so great was his concern.
"I heard the car stop outside and I could hear people speaking in Mandarin. After about two minutes they went back into the car and left."
Anti-Beijing protests in Hong Kong have inflamed tensions between University of Tasmania students in recent weeks with some backing the mainland government and others pushing for the protection of democratic freedoms.
Fake Chinese police cars have also cropped up in major Australian cities amid pro-Hong Kong demonstrations across the nation - with claims their sudden and highly visible appearance was designed to spook pro-democracy activists.
Police in South Australia and Western Australia have confirmed reported sightings of cars bearing Chinese Police logos and the word "police" written in Mandarin.
It is illegal to replicate the appearance of an Australian police vehicle, but there is no law against decorating a car with another country's police car design.
A police spokeswoman confirmed police had received a report about the vehicle. "Police are working to contact the owner of the vehicle," she said.
Greens leader Cassy O'Connor said the sighting was a "disturbing and chilling development".
"It's hard to escape the conclusion this is another intimidation tactic being used against supporters of the Hong Kong protesters,'' she said.
"Is this intimidation tactic being used more broadly in Tasmania by anti-democratic, pro-Beijing forces? This is just unacceptable in our democratic state."
The man who reported the vehicle said he was in no doubt about the intent behind the vehicle's appearance.
"The purpose was to incite fear," he said.
"I have a lot of friends and family members fighting for democracy, fighting for freedom and fighting for justice in Hong Kong.
"I know the chances of real Chinese law enforcement appearing in Australia is really low, but at the same time you never know what the Chinese government is willing to do."