Key Chains and Teddy Bears in Riot Gear: Hong Kong Promotes National Security

HONG KONG — Teddy bears clad in black police riot gear, on sale for greater than $60 apiece. Messages of gratitude to the authorities, pasted by youngsters onto the partitions of their colleges. Uniformed cops goose-stepping in formation, accompanied by a counterterrorism drill full with a helicopter and hostage simulation.

This is National Security Education Day in Hong Kong, the primary for the reason that central Chinese authorities imposed a wide-ranging security law on the territory final yr.

The regulation, a response to months of fierce and generally violent antigovernment protests that started in 2019, has develop into synonymous with the authorities’ efforts to clamp down on dissent and guarantee staunch loyalty. And the panoply of actions on Thursday indicated how they plan to take action: with a mix of cutesy cajolery and overt exhibits of pressure, for a regulation that an official as soon as stated ought to hold over Hong Kongers like a “sword of Damocles.”

“Any ‘hard resistance’ that undermines national security will be struck down by the law. Any ‘soft resistance’ will be regulated by the law,” Luo Huining, the central authorities’s prime official in Hong Kong, stated at a ceremony kicking off the day’s occasions.

The full day of actions was designed to inculcate younger and outdated with the significance of nationwide safety. It had been promoted extensively by means of street-side banners, front-page commercials in town’s newspapers, and even a scrolling digital show on considered one of Hong Kong’s downtown skyscrapers, among the many authorities’s most concentrated propaganda efforts for the reason that regulation was enacted final June.

The regulation’s results have already been broadly felt. The authorities have cited it to arrest around 100 people, gut the political opposition and remake Hong Kong’s electoral system.

Even the lineup of audio system at Thursday’s opening ceremony underscored how once-freewheeling Hong Kong was being remade in mainland China’s picture, with the central authorities wresting management from native officers.

Carrie Lam, town’s chief government, was the one sitting Hong Kong official to talk throughout the ceremony, which was held in town’s cavernous harbor-side conference middle. The different audio system included the pinnacle of the central authorities’s newly created safety workplace in Hong Kong, the commander of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong and the pinnacle of the Chinese international ministry’s department in Hong Kong.

“I especially thank the Hong Kong people,” stated Zheng Yanxiong, the safety workplace head. “From being unfamiliar with, guessing about, and waiting and watching for the national security law, they have arrived through a very natural and reasonable process at acceptance, welcoming and support.”

After the speeches, attendees filed out of the auditorium, every clutching a tote bag emblazoned with a customized National Security Education Day emblem, a brand in the form of a protect, edged by a row of books.

Outside the conference middle, a helicopter hovered, a part of one other exhibition close by — an open home on the Hong Kong Police College.

If the opening ceremony had showcased Hong Kong’s new actuality by way of bureaucratic speeches, the police open home opted for the action-movie method. It featured an illustration by a counterterrorism squad, full with a police canine, hostages and an officer descending from an overhead helicopter, scooping an evacuee into his arms earlier than being hoisted again into the air. Also on show was a water cannon, a well-known sight to pro-democracy protesters in opposition to whom such units have been frequently deployed in 2019.

Officers had begun the open home with a show of goose-stepping. Traditionally, lots of the disciplined companies in Hong Kong, a British colony till it was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, had marched in the British type. But the Chinese Army is thought for the distinctive goose-step, in which the leg doesn’t bend on the knee.

“After enjoying this wonderful performance,” an official web site for National Security Education Day promised, viewers could be led inside to view armored autos, the explosives disposal group and recruitment data.

If reminiscences of the counterterrorism demonstration weren’t sufficient to take residence, there have been souvenirs obtainable on the market. They included the riot-gear-clad teddy bear, a pair of zip ties strapped to its chest ($62); key chains engraved with crowd-control phrases like “Disperse or we fire” and “Warning: Tear smoke” ($four every); and a set of 18 three-inch collectible figurines, clutching rifles and shields and bearing police warning flags about unlawful meeting (“festive special offer”: $114).

It appeared unlikely that any form of protest would get away in such a closely fortified location. Still, officers appeared wanting to forestall even a touch of the so-called gentle resistance Mr. Luo had singled out in his speech. As journalists waited to enter the open home, safety officers requested some who have been sporting yellow or black face masks — colours related to the pro-democracy motion — to swap them for blue ones the authorities supplied.

There was a minimum of one small protest on Thursday. As officers gathered in the conference middle, four pro-democracy activists tried to march by means of components of downtown, bearing a poster that stated “Without democracy and human rights, there is no national security.” They have been adopted by dozens of cops.

In different components of town, schoolchildren — together with these in kindergarten — have been enlisted in the promotion of nationwide safety. Education has been a particular focus for the authorities, who’ve blamed what they name biased curriculums for turning Hong Kong’s youth in opposition to the federal government.

On Thursday morning, many colleges hosted ceremonies to boost China’s nationwide flag and sing the nationwide anthem (which the Hong Kong authorities final yr made a crime to disrespect).

At the Wong Cho Bau center college, which is run by a pro-Beijing academics’ union, the principal informed college students throughout a morning meeting that nationwide safety must be integrated into each a part of their curriculum, together with geography and biology courses, in addition to weekly flag-raising ceremonies.

“These daily accumulations can help us construct our own national concept and identity, so as to achieve prosperity and glory for the country,” stated the principal, Hui Chun-lung. “So everybody should study hard. If the youth are strong, then China is strong.”

Afterward, college officers confirmed off colourful slips of paper that college students had stuffed out and pasted onto a “community mosaic wall.” “Please express your opinion toward the idea of ‘Support national security, guard our home,’” the immediate stated.

In response, the scholars expressed their gratitude to the federal government and their aid that the pro-democracy protests had subsided. “Those people who protest everywhere are intolerable, destroying public places and hurting our home,” one scholar wrote.

Other college students’ responses have been much more effusive.

“I think the idea of supporting national security and guarding our home is extremely without problems! Support! Support! Extremely support!” one scholar wrote. “Whatever the national security law says, goes! I very much have no opinion!”

Joy Dong contributed analysis.

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