Uniformed groups in Hong Kong say they have been invited to the China Liaison Office and asked to change their marching steps from British to Chinese style for this year’s flag raising ceremony on May 4.

A flag-raising ceremony has been held at Golden Bauhinia Square every year since 2006 to commemorate the May Fourth movement, an intellectual and cultural reform movement in China.  The march and ceremony features 14 uniformed youth groups in Hong Kong, with 13 of them adopting British-style marching steps, while the Hong Kong Army Cadets Association adopts the Chinese style.

Disciplinary forces in Hong Kong generally adopt the British-style military steps, while the Chinese People’s Liberation Army uses the Soviet style, which includes a step called “goose stepping.”

Scouts in Hong Kong. Photo: Laure Wayaffe via Flickr.

For the first time this year, Committee of Youth Activities in Hong Kong and Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups – the organisers of the flag-raising ceremony –  sent out a form seeking feedback on what marching style should be used at this year’s ceremony. A decision will be made at a meeting on Friday.

Sources from three different uniformed groups told Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao that seven of the groups were invited to the China Liaison Office last Friday. At the meeting – attended by Youth Department Director General Chen Lin – the office asked the groups to switch their marching step style to Chinese, and said it hopes that the groups will make the change in the long run.

An unnamed senior-level staff told the paper that some groups have already agreed to make the change, but most had strong reservations. They also told the paper that they believe the move is in preparation for a large-scale celebration commemorating the 100th anniversary of the May Fourth movement next year.

The Scout Association of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Red Cross, the Auxiliary Medical Service and The Girls’ Brigade Hong Kong said that they plan on continuing with the British style this year.

A flag-raising ceremony on May Fourth in 2013. Photo: GovHK.

Hong Kong Army Cadets Association Chairman Bunny Chan confirmed that he had attended a meeting at the Chinese Liaison office, but said that the office only provided assistance and did not make any requests.

Another source from a uniformed group told the paper that the Hong Kong Army Cadets Association has previously requested other groups to switch the marching style to Chinese but was refused. The source also said that the incident had caused an uproar amongst the groups, as they believe that some wished to “decolonise” and “unify” the groups.

However, Chan denied this and said the association respected other groups and had no right to ask them to change their styles.

The Committee of Youth Activities said that they understand different groups have different views as to the arrangements at this year’s ceremony and will hold an open attitude towards the matter.

The paper called the China Liaison Office, but when a reporter made their identity known after the line was transferred to Chen Lin, the person at the other end hung up the phone. The office did not respond before the deadline.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.