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What does Hong Kong Inc get out of the WTO jamboree?

The security for the sixth ministerial conference was intense but Korean protesters were still able to set off a police fishing operation and the director-general did not escape a barracking, while residents wonder what it’s all for.

“Welcome our friends from all over the world”, read the signs on Hong Kong school children’s paintings hanging from empty freight containers. The rusting hulks, stacked two high, formed the walls of a fortified compound housing the expensive limousines used to chauffeur dignitaries during the sixth World Trade Organization ministerial conference in Hong Kong in December.

Whether the children’s warm welcome was meant to extend to the eclectic group of non-official visitors to Hong Kong during the conference is debatable.

A walk around the conference location suggested that Hong Kong’s finest had their own welcome in mind for the students, overseas workers and professional protesters that have become as much a part of the WTO circus as the delegates themselves.

Glue and netting

The mood ahead of the conference was nervous, with an astonishing police presence across Hong Kong island. One-third of the territory’s 27,000-strong police force was on the beat and in a particularly assiduous mood. Lessons had clearly been learnt from previous WTO events. Manhole covers were glued down, netting covered all pedestrian walkways over crucial roads, and checkpoints and pedestrian calming barriers were erected anywhere near Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, the venue for the conference.

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