Hong Kong police have provided Chinese-style goose-stepping and flag-raising training to dozens of local secondary school students, who are part of a new flag-guard team that aimed to promote patriotism and Chinese identity among students.

Sik Sik Yuen flag-guard marching goose-stepping
Members of the Sik Sik Yuen flag-guard team perform Chinese goose-stepping on September 17, 2023. Photo: Sik Sik Yuen.

Around 60 students from five secondary schools managed by religious charitable organisation Sik Sik Yuen – which promotes Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism in the city – attended a ceremony on Sunday to mark the establishment of the city’s first secondary school flag-guard team organised by an education service provider.

The schools involved were Ho Lap College, Ho Fung College, Ho Dao College, Ho Ngai College and Ho Yu College. At least 12 students between secondary two and four were handpicked from each school to join the Sik Sik Yuen flag-guard team, which will perform flag-raising duties at events hosted by the organisation.

The team received training during the summer holiday led by Chief Inspector Lo Yee-chung, who is responsible for marching and flag-raising training at the Hong Kong Police College, Sik Sik Yuen said.

It said the flag-guard team and its training aimed to strengthen students’ sense of national identity, enhance their teamwork, discipline and leadership skills.

Sik Sik Yuen flag-guard police Dick Wong
Assistant Commissioner of Police, National Security (2) Dick Wong attends a ceremony celebrating the founding of the Sik Sik Yuen flag-guard team. Photo: Sik Sik Yuen.

The training was also supported by a group of police officers who graduated from Ho Lap College, led by alumnus Dick Wong, who is also assistant national security commissioner of the police. It was part of the Project Legacy programme that aimed to foster police engagement with schools in the city.

Wong said in Cantonese on Sunday that police attached great importance to youth training and hoped that by joining the flag-guard team, students could “strengthen their law-abiding spirit.”

“It is also hoped that they will carry the knowledge and experiences gained from the Flag Guard, establishing positive and proactive values, and feeling proud of their national identity,” Wong said.

Flag-guard teams are common at schools and universities in mainland China, where some students are tasked with frequent flag raising, including on special occasions and patriotic anniversaries.

Sik Sik Yuen flag-guard flag-raising
Members of the Sik Sik Yuen flag-guard team perform flag-raising on September 17, 2023. Photo: Sik Sik Yuen.

Last October, 14 students from St. Francis Xavier’s School faced a three-day suspension after they were accused of disrespecting a flag-raising ceremony. Local media reported that they were having breakfast and did not attend the ceremony.

Lawmaker and school principal Tang Fei later called for clearer penalty guidelines for handling students who disrespected flag-raising in schools.

In 2021, Hong Kong amended the National Flag and National Emblem Ordinance to criminalise the desecration of the Chinese national flag and national emblem on the internet. The new law also stipulates requirements for primary and secondary education on what the government described as important national symbols.

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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.