Police marked Hong Kong’s National Security Education Day on Thursday with an open day featuring a series of band performances and drills, including Chinese military-style “goose-step” marching, and anti-terrorism demonstrations.  

Photo: Rhea Mogul/HKFP.

The event, organised by the Office for Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong, was held at the Hong Kong Police College in Wong Chuk Hang, and attended by scores of primary and secondary school students, as well as pro-police organisations including Project Gemstone and Kowloon City Senior Police Call. 

See also: Hong Kong police goose step as demonstrators mark National Security Education Day

Photo: Rhea Mogul/HKFP.

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 under the legislation since then. 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.

Photo: Rhea Mogul/HKFP.

The ceremony began with about two dozen police officers performing Chinese military-style drills and “goose-stepping”, followed by a series of drills in which officers from the Special Duties Unit, the Counter Terrorism Response Unit and the Emergency Police Unit, enacted scenes showcasing the force at work.

Police jumped out of a helicopter to demonstrate the arrest of a “terrorist” with a gun, as other officers on the ground drove around in police cars.

A German Shepherd police dog assisted in the mock arrest.

“[The event] is about safeguarding Hong Kong,” said 24-year-old Hafiz Ahtsham, who attended the ceremony with Project Gemstone, a Yau Tsim Mong police organisation which aims to help non-Chinese speaking minority groups and prepare them for employment in the force.

“Hong Kong is an international city and enjoys ‘One Country Two Systems’,” said Ahtsham. “We have our own disciplinary forces and it’s good to show to the world that such a force can safeguard Hong Kong in any national crisis.”

See also: China will teach interfering foreign forces a lesson, says Beijing’s top man in Hong Kong

Hafiz Ahtsham. Photo: Rhea Mogul/HKFP.

“Some of us really want to join the police force,” said Ahtsham. “So we wanted some basic information about what the force [does], and the requirements, and how to get in. It was a great event that showcased our professionalism, loyalty and commitment to Hong Kong.”

Photo: Rhea Mogul/HKFP.

Also on display was police equipment including the water cannons used during the months-long 2019 protests.

Several police merchandise items were on sale, such as keychains shaped as tear-gas warning flags.

Photo: Rhea Mogul/HKFP.

Beijing inserted the national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissent in China.

An attendee, who only wished to be identified as May, applauded the event. “I support the police,” said May, who was there with a group of pro-Beijing supporters. 

Students in various schools took part in several organised activities, including flag-raising ceremonies, assemblies, and quizzes on national security.

SKH St James’ Primary School on National Security Education Day. Photo: GovHK.

Earlier on Thursday, the League of Social Democrats and the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China staged a four-person protest in Wan Chai demanding full democracy.

They also called for political prisoners to be released and for human rights to be respected. Over 100 people have been arrested under the Beijing-enacted security law.

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Rhea Mogul

Rhea is a Hong Kong-based journalist interested in gender issues and minority rights, whose work has appeared in a number of publications across Asia. She is also on the 2019 Diversity List: a list of ethnic minorities that are qualified and committed to serve on Hong Kong government committees.