Anyway, current politics aside, after doing a bit of a web search it seems that the stations that have these on them were built along the same lines as the old MacIntosh forts that are strung along the border area between HK and the Mainland. At some point in the past, it was envisaged that there may come a day when stations would need to be locked down against some unmentioned mob and the stations were therefore created almost as pseudo-forts – complete with these watchtowers/turrets.
Turrets at Yuen Long Police Station
I was initially under the impression that only the older stations had these turrets, however, the excellent Emilie (of Land of No Cheese) was quick to point out that North Point station, seemingly newer, has square turrets instead of round ones. I also later noticed that Shatin Police Station also has square ones. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the Shatin ones because they are under bamboo scaffolding on Streetview, but you can see the North Point ones in the picture below.
Would they be any practical use in a real situation? I guess it would depend on the situation but perhaps rioting outside the station might make them useful for observation and shooting whatever weapons are needed into the crowd - I'm sure a few tear gas round would fit through most of the slots in them ;-) But many of them aren't that far from the ground and I'm sure it would be possible for a person to climb up and do damage given the right circumstances. These newer square ones on North Point station are situated at a reasonable height, but - and I'm certainly no military expert - surely the rounder ones provide better firing angles and more protection from projectiles?
Here’s one from the old Wanchai Police Station on Gloucester Rd. Take a good look because I have no idea if it will be preserved once the place is redeveloped (the building has a Grade 2 listing and therefore only subject to ‘selective’ preservation).
Wanchai Police Station
Notice how small the firing holes are in the Wanchai location compared to the large open slots in the Yuen Long Picture above? My favourite though is just down the road from me and belong to Shek Kip Mei Police Station. They're built on top of rather large columns – probably down to the sloping local topography, especially so because the building itself is on top of a small hillock and the turrets have walkways from the hill to their entrances.
The station seen below is the one at the hilltop looking over Lau Fau Shan in the far north west of the territory. Angus also mentions this on his post here and the fact that the police inside had a rather hard job of keeping an eye on any illegal immigrants trying to get into HK. Anyway, here is a photo I snapped of it a couple of years ago. These ones are different again because they are actually mounted on the edge of the station’s roof – I guess to give a more commanding view of the surrounding area in particular the road that leads up to the station.
Here’s a few that I haven’t had time to visit properly yet and have made use of the ever-useful Google Streetview. First we have Sai Kung Police Station which has a small turret around the back of the building, followed by Central Police Station and finally Western Police Station.
I’d love to hear from anyone who actually knows if these things have ever been used in anger (such as during the nationalist riots in the 50's or perhaps the Communist riots in ’67?) and what purpose they actually hoped to be used for in the first place - I don't believe it would take much to render them useless.
Anyway, in the meantime, if the HK Police - now Asia's not-so finest - would like to see my (and possibly lots of other peoples') opinion of them rise once again - though I get the feeling they no longer care either way - then they should start enforcing some of the traffic laws around Kowloon Tong where everyday I am held up by an army of illegally parked multi-person-vehicles (or as I call them: Tosser cars) waiting to either pick up or drop off the even greater army of children attending the various schools in the area. I'm quite certain that if the Occupy protesters had used cars to block the roads instead of metal barriers, no one would have even noticed for the first few weeks. Such is life these days in Hong Kong.