Hong Kong’s inaugural National Security Education Day kicked off with nationalistic pomp echoing that of mainland China on Thursday, with two dozen police officers performing Chinese military-style drills and “goose stepping” outside the Hong Kong Police College.

Officers from the immigration, customs and correctional services department are performing similar drills, instead of British-style marches from the city’s colonial past, in a show of national pride .

police goose step national security education day 2021
Photo: Hong Kong police screenshot.

The marching step, in which officers stride in unison with rigid legs, is also used in North Korea and was performed by the military in Nazi Germany and other European fascist regimes last century. Under the Communist Party, Chinese forces adopted a Soviet-style goose step after the civil war which ended in 1949.

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The day, organised by the Office for Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong, is designed to promote the importance of national security and to foster a sense of national Chinese identity in Hong Kong. The move comes after Beijing imposed a national security law last summer in response to months of pro-democracy protests in 2019.

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“[Hong Kong ] is an integral part of the [People’s Republic of China] and…we have the responsibility to safeguard the sovereignty of the country and territorial integrity,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in a speech at the opening ceremony on Thursday morning.

police goose step national security education day 2021 rifles
Photo: Hong Kong police screenshot.

National Security Education Day was introduced in mainland China in July 2015. Thursday was the first time the day has been marked in Hong Kong since the passing of the security law.

‘No national security without human rights’

Earlier, activists from two pro-democracy groups staged a four-person protest to protest against the Beijing-imposed national security law and its new electoral overhaul for Hong Kong.

The four members of the League of Social Democrats and the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China also demanded genuine universal suffrage and the release of all political prisoners in China.

LSD national security education day protest
Photo: League of Social Democrats via Facebook.

The group was accompanied by dozens of police officers, with some trying to stop journalists from taking pictures of the protest banners, according to RTHK. One banner read: “Without human rights, there is no national security.”

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In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure. 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 dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.

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Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.