The US will halt training for members of the Hong Kong police force and other local security services under President Donald Trump’s sweeping executive order – a response to Beijing’s recently enacted national security law for the city.

The order, signed on Tuesday, revealed that the city’s police officers and security services personnel have attended training at the International Law Enforcement Academies (ILEAs), administered by the US Department of State. Hong Kong is among the 15 participating countries and regions that has frequently visited the ILEAs’ branch in Bangkok, Thailand.

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Hong Kong police. File photo: May James/HKFP.

According to the ILEA Bangkok website, the academy – founded in 1998 as a joint effort between the Thai government and the US government – provides training to tackle narcotics trafficking, money laundering, cybercrime, terrorism and more.

Some recent exchanges between members of Hong Kong’s agencies and the ILEA Bangkok included a post-blast investigations course in January 2019 and an advanced tactical safety and planning course in November 2018.

But such training and collaboration will soon come to an end, as part of Trump’s move to end Hong Kong’s preferential status in response to what he called China’s “oppressive actions” against the people of Hong Kong. The US leader said the city’s freedom and rights has been taken away under the security legislation that criminalise secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference.

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Responding to HKFP’s enquiries, police said they have sent a total of 1,489 officers to attend development training on the mainland over the past five years, while 604 officers attended overseas training during the same period.

The force said it has not sent any officers to attend courses held by the ILEAs since last September due to the “global complex situation,” and it has no intention to enrol in courses offered by the ILEAs this year.

“Hong Kong Police Force will continue to seek training opportunities and cooperation with our global counterparts with a view to enhancing officers’ professional efficiency and service quality,” the force said in an email reply on Thursday night.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump. Photo: The White House, via Flickr.

The executive order also included the termination of the Fulbright exchange programme for China and Hong Kong. The programme offers grants to qualified graduate students in the city to pursue a graduate level study in the US, while local scholars may apply to conduct post-doctoral research at American institutions.

“[The US will] take steps to terminate the Fulbright exchange program with regard to China and Hong Kong with respect to future exchanges for participants travelling both from and to China or Hong Kong,” the executive order read.

‘Brutal interference’

Trump also signed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act on Tuesday, which allows him to impose sanctions on foreign individuals and entities that it deems as “materially contribute to China’s failure to preserve Hong Kong’s autonomy.”

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Photo: GovHK.

Beijing has “resolutely opposed” and “strongly condemned” the move by Washington, slamming it as “brutal interference” in Hong Kong’s affairs. In a statement released on Wednesday, China’s liaison office in Hong Kong accused the US of “playing a role” in the pro-idependence movement and “terrorist acts” that took place during the year-long anti-extradition bill movement.

“The unreasonable meddling and shameless threats from the US are the typical logic of a robber and acts of bullying. What grounds do they have to reverse right and wrong and rudely make accusations?” the office wrote.

The Hong Kong government also “strongly objected” to and “deplored” the Hong Kong Autonomy Act and Trump’s executive order. A government spokesperson said the administration will fully back the Central Government to impose counter-measures, and would not let “US hegemony” succeed.

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Police and protesters clash during the anti-extradition bill protest. Photo: Studio Incendo.

“It is hypocritical for the US to introduce measures to attack China by creating issues in the HKSAR under the pretext of human rights, democracy and autonomy out of its own political considerations,” the government statement on Wednesday read.

The spokesman added: “It is egregious for the US to undermine the relationship between the HKSAR and the Central Authority under One Country, Two Systems and to cover its abhorrent acts by the political slogan of ‘supporting Hong Kong people’.”

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.