Goose-stepping police strut their stuff at school
Policemen goose-stepped on parade while children were required to raise the Chinese flag and sing national anthems on Thursday, local time, as Hong Kong marked its inaugural ‘‘National Security Education Day’’ following last year’s quashing of pro-democracy protests.
Schools across the city held mandatory events promoting the virtues of Chinese rule, and Luo Huining, the top Chinese official in Hong Kong, declared the national security law ‘‘a sharp sword’’ to safeguard social stability and protect the city’s future.
While mainland China has celebrated such a day since 2016, this is the first time the former British territory has marked the occasion, as schools are increasingly encouraged to promote Chinese patriotism.
Giant billboards promoting the event have been plastered across the city, while Hong Kong Police College in the Wong Chuk Hang neighbourhood held an open day where officers carried out drills, anti-terrorism exercises and showcased their armoured vehicles.
‘‘For all acts that harm national security and Hong Kong’s prosperity, we must take actions,’’ Luo, a seniormember of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Director of the
Liaison Office to Hong Kong’s government, said. ‘‘For some foreign forces that endanger national security, we must fight back when we should fight back so we will teach them a lesson.’’
This week more than 100 British MPS and peers signed a letter to Boris Johnson calling for sanctions on Chinese officials ‘‘responsible for the crackdown on the democracy movement in Hong Kong’’.
The lead signatory was Lord Patten of Barnes, the former Governor of Hong Kong.
During Thursday’s events, at least three reporters were asked to remove black face masks, as the colour, as well as yellow, has been closely associated with the 2019 protests that brought hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets.
A fourth reporter was arrested outside the police college for possessing imitation guns, after officers found two toy guns in his backpack. The reporter allegedly said the toys were the props for a filming project but that he didn’t put them away in time.
The city’s government is required, under the national security law that was drafted in Beijing and forced on the city with no meaningful local debate, to ‘‘promote national security education in schools and universities’’.
Throughout the territory, school and kindergarten pupils, some as young as three years old, had special lessons and events to mark the day.
As well as conducting flagraising ceremonies, some schools held mini-exhibitions and quiz competitions about the importance of national security. Pupils were also asked to put stickers on a state-sponsored ‘‘community mosaic’’ wall – a pro-beijing equivalent of the so-called ‘‘Lennon Walls’’ that protesters created around the city during the 2019 protests featuring slogans and artwork.
Bookmarks distributed to students days before the event list a host of topics linked to national security, including ‘‘polar security,’’ ‘‘deep sea security’’ and ‘‘ecological security.’’
‘‘We hope to teach kindergarten pupils about the correct understanding of National Security Education Day, for instance, in terms of national identity, we are Chinese people living in Hong Kong,’’ Nancy Lam, a kindergarten principal, told the South China Morning Post.
But there was some evidence of resistance, as a minority of secondary school student groups called on their peers to boycott the activities, including turning their backs on the national flag and refusing to sing the anthem.
Online forums suggested some students deliberately skipped classes. Four activists also led a small protest in the city’s Wan Chai neighbourhood, according to local broadcaster RTHK.
Ivan Choy, a senior lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that CCP officials were focusing on education as a means to discourage further demonstrations.
‘‘They think that one of the major sources of instability is from the students, the young people, so they will put more efforts on this aspect,’’ he told Bloomberg. ‘‘They have put more patriotic education in, and they have tried to punish or discipline teachers in secondary schools.’’
The Chinese government imposed the draconian law on the territory last June following a year of street protests, which Beijing saw as a threat to overturn its rule. The law bans acts of secession, sedition, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, and about 100 people have since been arrested on national security charges.
They include Jimmy Lai, a publishing tycoon, for urging foreign governments to sanction Hong Kong officials, and dozens of pro-democracy politicians and activists for running an unofficial primary to pick opposition candidates.
Fifty-seven of them have been indicted.