Hong Kong school students as young as three have been given national-security themed puzzles as part of activities to mark the city’s “celebrations” of a new legal code widely condemned by the international community.
In a much expanded roster of events for the city’s National Security Education day, schools were given teaching material on how to “uphold national security, safeguard our homeland”.
Kindergarten children were reportedly given national security-themed puzzles, while other young students took part in poster and slogan-designing competitions or had smiling photos taken to create national security “community mosaics”, marking the new national security law passed last year that has led to a crackdown on political dissent.
Most schools were also expected to hold flag raising ceremonies and sing the Chinese national anthem, and to explain the meaning of the day in morning assemblies. Teachers were also free to introduce the topics of “territorial security, economic security, ecological security, cybersecurity and cultural security through related subjects”, the education department said.
“National security law concepts are indeed difficult to teach to kindergarten kids. That’s why we hope to nurture them at a young age about positive values, so they can distinguish between black and white when they grow up,” kindergarten principal and member of the pro-Beijing Federation of Education Workers, Nancy Lam, Chui-ling told the South China Morning Post.
The Financial Times reported police also held open days to watch anti-terrorism drills or try out virtual reality experiences. In a symbolic break from Hong Kong’s ties to British rule, officers also unveiled a new goose-step march, styled on mainland China’s force. Sideline stalls distributed themed merchandise, including teddy bears dressed as riot police, figurines of officers holding miniature use-of-force warning flags, and key rings which said “warning – teargas”.
The annual event was expanded from the usual speeches and symposiums to “educate” young people about the new national security law, imposed by Beijing last year to outlaw various acts as secession, sedition, foreign collusion and terrorism. Article 10 of the law required the Hong Kong government to “promote national security education in schools and universities”.
It was promoted with full page ads on the front page of every daily newspaper on Thursday, with the exception of the pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily, whose founder Jimmy Lai is in jail awaiting trial on national security charges, and sentencing on other protest related offences.
Beijing’s top representative in Hong Kong, Luo Huining, said authorities would “strike down hard resistance and regulate soft resistance”, and “teach a lesson” to foreign powers who sought to use Hong Kong as a “chess piece”.
Security chief John Lee reportedly told residents to watch out for neighbours who “radicalise themselves”, saying “they may look calm and normal but can all of a sudden turn into a ‘lone wolf’ and carry out terrorist acts.”
The national security law has been widely criticised as overly broad and draconian, developed and utilised against the pro-democracy movement including for mass arrests of opposition figures.
In February Hong Kong schools were ordered to update the curriculum with a greater focus on national security, warning teachers there was “no room for debate or compromise” when it came to the subject. The new curriculum included an animated cartoon of animals explaining the law, apparently aimed at young children but featuring technical and legal terms.
Schools were also issued new requirements to prevent student and staff participation in political activities, increase monitoring of employees and teaching materials, remove books and flyers deemed to endanger national security, and to report cases to authorities if necessary.