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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Key Chains and Teddy Bears in Riot Gear: Hong Kong Promotes Nationwide Safety

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

That is Nationwide Safety Schooling Day in Hong Kong, the primary for the reason that central Chinese language authorities imposed a wide-ranging safety regulation on the territory final yr.

The regulation, a response to months of fierce and typically violent antigovernment protests that started in 2019, has change 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 combination of cutesy cajolery and overt reveals of power, for a regulation that an official as soon as stated ought to dangle over Hong Kongers like a “sword of Damocles.”

“Any ‘exhausting resistance’ that undermines nationwide safety might be struck down by the regulation. Any ‘mushy resistance’ might be regulated by the regulation,” Luo Huining, the central authorities’s prime official in Hong Kong, stated at a ceremony kicking off the day’s occasions.

The total day of actions was designed to inculcate younger and previous with the significance of nationwide safety. It had been promoted extensively by street-side banners, front-page commercials within the metropolis’s newspapers, and even a scrolling digital show on certainly 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 round 100 individuals, intestine 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, the town’s chief government, was the one sitting Hong Kong official to talk in the course of the ceremony, which was held within the metropolis’s cavernous harbor-side conference heart. The opposite audio system included the pinnacle of the central authorities’s newly created safety workplace in Hong Kong, the commander of the Chinese language Individuals’s Liberation Military garrison in Hong Kong and the pinnacle of the Chinese language overseas ministry’s department in Hong Kong.

“I particularly thank the Hong Kong individuals,” stated Zheng Yanxiong, the safety workplace head. “From being unfamiliar with, guessing about, and ready and looking ahead to the nationwide safety regulation, they’ve arrived by a really pure and cheap course of at acceptance, welcoming and help.”

After the speeches, attendees filed out of the auditorium, every clutching a tote bag emblazoned with a customized Nationwide Safety Schooling Day emblem, a emblem within the form of a defend, edged by a row of books.

Exterior the conference heart, a helicopter hovered, a part of one other exhibition close by — an open home on the Hong Kong Police Faculty.

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 indication 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. Additionally on show was a water cannon, a well-known sight to pro-democracy protesters in opposition to whom such units had been steadily deployed in 2019.

Officers had begun the open home with a present of goose-stepping. Historically, lots of the disciplined companies in Hong Kong, a British colony till it was returned to Chinese language rule in 1997, had marched within the British fashion. However the Chinese language Military is understood for the distinctive goose-step, through which the leg doesn’t bend on the knee.

“After having fun with this excellent efficiency,” an official web site for Nationwide Safety Schooling Day promised, viewers could be led inside to view armored automobiles, the explosives disposal crew and recruitment info.

If recollections 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 hearth” and “Warning: Tear smoke” ($4 every); and a set of 18 three-inch collectible figurines, clutching rifles and shields and bearing police warning flags about unlawful meeting (“festive particular supply”: $114).

It appeared unlikely that any kind of protest would get away in such a closely fortified location. Nonetheless, officers appeared desperate to forestall even a touch of the so-called mushy resistance Mr. Luo had singled out in his speech. As journalists waited to enter the open home, safety officers requested some who had 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 within the conference heart, 4 pro-democracy activists tried to march by components of downtown, bearing a poster that stated “With out democracy and human rights, there isn’t a nationwide safety.” They had been adopted by dozens of cops.

In different components of the town, schoolchildren — together with these in kindergarten — had been enlisted within the promotion of nationwide safety. Schooling has been a explicit 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 faculties hosted ceremonies to boost China’s nationwide flag and sing the nationwide anthem (which the Hong Kong authorities final yr made a criminal offense to disrespect).

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

“These day by day accumulations may also help us assemble our personal nationwide idea and identification, in order to attain prosperity and glory for the nation,” stated the principal, Hui Chun-lung. “So everyone ought to examine exhausting. If the youth are robust, then China is robust.”

Afterward, faculty officers confirmed off colourful slips of paper that college students had crammed out and pasted onto a “neighborhood mosaic wall.” “Please specific your opinion towards the thought of ‘Assist nationwide safety, guard our residence,’” the immediate stated.

In response, the scholars expressed their gratitude to the federal government and their reduction that the pro-democracy protests had subsided. “These individuals who protest in all places are insupportable, destroying public locations and hurting our residence,” one scholar wrote.

Different college students’ responses had been much more effusive.

“I believe the thought of supporting nationwide safety and guarding our house is extraordinarily with out issues! Assist! Assist! Extraordinarily help!” one scholar wrote. “Regardless of the nationwide safety regulation says, goes! I very a lot don’t have any opinion!”

Pleasure Dong contributed analysis.

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