Nearly 20 years after Hong Kong was returned to China, the British army is back — this time to train the city’s police force on crucial matters of pomp and ceremony.
Four British army personnel drilled Hong Kong police officers on ceremonial standards, the first such arrangement since the former British colony was handed back to Beijing in 1997, reports said.
“The army’s school of ceremony were invited to help smarten up the Hong Kong police force,” British army broadcaster Forces TV said in a December 22 report.
Hong Kong’s police force was established in 1844, just a few years after Hong Kong became a British colony.
The force in the now semi-autonomous Chinese city still adheres to British ceremonial traditions — and boasts one of Asia’s best bagpipe bands.
British army officers supervised Hong Kong police officers as they marched in formation with the sound of bagpipes filling the air, video footage on Forces TV showed.
“We were asked what we could do to improve our police officers on professionalism… why don’t we just invite the instructors… to have their skills and their teaching methods delivered in Hong Kong,” police inspector Ka Lok told Forces TV.
Hong Kong police were unable to immediately comment on the training arrangement when contacted by AFP Thursday.
The training comes as the city’s police force struggles to repair its image, which was tarnished by what many considered a heavy-handed approach to policing mass pro-democracy rallies in 2014.
Police used teargas — the first time it had been deployed for many years — in September 2014 to disperse largely peaceful demonstrators calling for free leadership elections in the city, amid fears that Beijing is tightening its grip.
Video from May, 1997:
The pro-democracy rallies, which blocked major thoroughfares, went on for over two months, exacerbating tensions between the force and the public.
Seven officers are waiting for a court ruling — due February — over the beating of a protester during the rallies, an incident which was captured on film and beamed around the world.
Another court found the protester guilty of assaulting police by splashing liquid on officers from a height on the night of the beating.