The Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) has officially abandoned its British-style foot drills to switch to the Chinese-style goose step of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) on the 25th anniversary of the British handover to China on July 1, 1997, Chinese state media CGTN reported.
The goose step style of marching sees soldiers conduct foot drills without bending their knees. The PLA is the largest military today that still sticks to this practice, which first originated in the Prussian military in the 1800s before it was spread by German advisers to the Russians, who in turn spread it to other parts of the world through the Soviets.
Removing "colonial overtones"
The HKPF told Bloomberg that the move aims to "promote patriotism and enhance the awareness of national identity".
Lam Chi-wai, Chairman of the Hong Kong Junior Police Officers' Association, also told jingoistic Chinese-backed media Global Times that adopting the Chinese-style foot drills is "a symbolic change in ideology, a removal of colonial overtones, and has symbolic meaning for the country and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, demonstrating to the world that Hong Kong is an inseparable part of China".
Since early last year, the Chinese military have been training the Hong Kong police on the Chinese-style foot drills.
Such steps to bring the city into line by introducing Chinese protocols could already be seen back in 2018 when Beijing asked uniformed groups in Hong Kong to consider marching in the Chinese-style goose step in an upcoming public display, the Financial Times reported.
Reacting to the request, Claudia Mo, an opposition politician from Hong Kong's pan-democratic camp, said "it's part of a brainwashing effort to mould [their] young people to comply".
"At the end of the day they will be conditioning our young not just how to march but how to walk, talk and think, and that’s what’s so scary.”
These changes come as the city, under the tightening grip of Beijing, begins to shed signs of its British colonial relic.
The Hong Kong Education Bureau has most recently approved four new textbooks that explicably said Hong Kong was never a British colony, and that it was only administered under colonial rule.
No more "Yes, sir!" in English
In addition, the force will no longer be responding to commands with "Yes, sir!" in English -- a reply that viewers of Hong Kong police-themed movies might be familiar with. Instead, they will be replying the same in Mandarin (知道, 长官), according to Taiwanese daily newspaper United Daily News.
Similarly, commands are now called out in Mandarin rather than English.
The police force's three counter-terrorism units are also to ditch their present uniforms for new ones that supposedly provide greater protection and allow for easier identification of officers -- the force were previously criticised for failing to display their identification numbers while quashing civilians' protest.
Xi Jinping: "True democracy" for Hong Kong only started after city's handover
In a Friday speech that lasted for around 22 minutes, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who arrived in the city a day before, defended Chinese rule over the city, and reiterated the utmost importance of adhering to the "one country, two systems" model, The Standard reported.
In addition, espousing the benefits of Chinese rule, Xi said "true democracy" for Hong Kong started after the city "reunited with the motherland", and when its people "became the masters of their own city".
Despite Xi paying lip service to the effectiveness of the "one country, two systems" model, saying that it has gained the approval of the larger international community, Hong Kong has seen its extent of autonomy -- supposedly guaranteed under the governing framework -- dwindle in recent years as Beijing increasingly imposes tougher laws that crack down on dissent from Hongkongers.
Xi also defended the national security law as a necessity for ensuring the people's democratic rights, as well as Hong Kong's prosperity and stability.
Hong Kong must be in the hands of "patriots"
The Chinese leader added that the city must be "in the hands of patriots", further explaining that "no one in the world" would allow "outsiders, betrayers or traitors to get hold of political power".
In the Legislative Council election held in December 2021, Beijing loyalists won a landslide victory.
The election was held after Beijing introduced sweeping changes to the city's electoral system -- ostensibly done to ensure only pro-Beijing candidates could hold office. For instance, the number of directly elected seats was reduced from half to a quarter, while the electoral committee, which mostly consists of pro-Beijing figures, will select more than a third of the legislative seats, according to Reuters.
Previously, ahead of the poll, several pro-democracy activists and candidates had also been arrested and thrown into jail.
The election was met with widespread apathy among Hongkongers, with only 30.2 per cent of voters having participated -- making it the lowest voter turnout the city has ever seen since it returned to Chinese control.
Also in May this year, the sole candidate to stand for the city's chief executive election was voted in with an overwhelming majority of votes from the Election Committee, which mostly consists of Beijing loyalists.
The vote was criticised as most people in Hong Kong's 7.4 million population had no say in the decision.
Top image adapted via Tong Shi/YouTube