Hong Kong’s prison officers showed off their capabilities in tackling a mock riot – fending off inmates wielding canes and slippers – as their training institute opened to the public to mark Thursday’s National Security Education Day.

Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

The Correctional Services Department event featured a series of performance, drills, games and quiz booths. Officers demonstrated the Chinese military-style goose step marching, as well as showing off the canine unit and the regional response team.

The event, organised by the Office for Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong, was meant to promote the concept of national security to members of the public. Dozens of people gathered at the department’s training college next to Stanley Prison. Similar events took place at the police academy in Wong Chuk Hang and at some primary schools.

It was the city’s first such day since Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law in June 2020. More than 100 people have been arrested since then under the legislation. 

Students as young as six will be taught the basic concepts of the legislation and the details of its offences — subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces – which are punishable by up to life imprisonment.

Slippers and plastic furniture

During one of the drills at the training school, correctional officers dressed in thick padded suits played the role of inmates involved in a prison riot that erupted after they quarrelled over a game. The “inmates” hurled slippers and plastic furniture at anti-riot officers as they hit each other with canes. Officers regained control by spraying fluids and firing stun shots that imitated tear gas.

Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

Also on show was the the canine unit, with a Springer Spaniel shown sniffing out a contraband mobile phone. A black Labrador identified a person in possession of illegal drugs.

Members of the public were invited to take pictures in front of photo stand-in boards in the shape of prison officers and to view exhibits on national security.

Mr. Ng and his nephew. Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

“I don’t have much opinion about national security because whatever I think will be of no help. Everyone’s definition of national security is different,” said one of those taking part, Mr Ng.

Navigating the maze of national security before reaching “prosperity and stability.” Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

Members of the public were invited to take quizzes about China’s constitution and the Basic Law. At a game booth named “the war room experience,” participants were invited to “pick and challenge themselves on questions about national security under a tense atmosphere, in the style of ‘who wants to be a millionaire’,” according to a handout.

One of the questions was the name of China’s top decision-making body.

“The war room.” Photo: Stand News.

When asked her views of pro-democracy politicians who are now in custody over alleged national security violations, Ms Lau, who attended the event with her two children, said she believed more education on national education is needed.

“People need to be responsible for what they do,” she said. “[Today’s events] may not help national security much but it’s a good start.”

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Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.