Fresh calls for University of Melbourne to remove Hong Kong Police Force job ad after national security law imposed

Police in riot gear near signs saying 'stop charging or we use force'.
The advertised police role pays more than $8,880 per month and offers training in "use of force".(AP: Vincent Yu)

The University of Melbourne has faced fresh calls to remove an advertisement for the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) in the wake of sweeping new national security laws imposed on the city by Beijing.

The controversial ad sparked a backlash among some Hong Kong international students studying in Australia, who allege police brutality in quashing pro-democracy protests that rocked the city last year.

The widely condemned national security law has reignited calls from students to remove the ad, with hundreds of people being arrested by Hong Kong Police under the legislation last week.

"As a student from Hong Kong, we have personally experienced the inhumane behaviour from the HKPF," Joseph Yu told the ABC.

"We were terrified about the recruitment as this will continuously amplify their brutality."

An advertisement for the Hong Kong Police Force appears on the University of Melbourne website on July 3, 2020.
Students have asked the university to remove the ad, saying the HKPF engaged in police brutality during pro-democracy protests.(Supplied)

He said the Hong Kong Police have "slowly become a useful weapon used by the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] to restrict our freedom".

"Now they imposed the national security law to shut up different voices in Hong Kong. These are all enforced by the HKPF, and they have all the rights and power given by the officials."

Recruiting students in Australia and beyond

The Hong Kong Police were recruiting Hong Kong students studying in Australia, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

The ad, still available on the University of Melbourne's careers page on Friday, invites applications for a "Probationary Police Inspector" role.

"Inspectors should be with the strength of character to take command of a situation and the judgment to look beyond the obvious," the ad reads.

Students at the University of New South Wales
Student protesters fear Beijing's new law could impact their freedoms even while studying in Australia.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

It says successful applicants will receive HK$47,690 ($8,884) per month and will undergo training, "which covers leadership, command and control, human resources management, laws, legal proceedings, police procedures, sociology in policing, psychology in policing, foot drill, physical training, tactics and use of force etc."

The ad also includes a disclaimer from the University of Melbourne: "The listing of this overseas internship or vocational placement on Careers Online is in no way an endorsement by the university of the opportunity."

Other institutions, such as University of Technology Sydney and Macquarie University, removed the ad from their websites in May after a backlash, according to SBS.Hong Kong's countdown to 2047Hong Kong was handed back to China with no framework for what would happen after the year 2047, leaving the city to carve an identity out of two ideologically opposed empires.Read more

"When students raised concerns about the job advertisement, Macquarie University made the decision to remove it while it was being reviewed," a spokesperson for the university said in a statement.

A University of Melbourne spokesperson did not directly address the calls to remove the ad, saying in a statement to the ABC that the careers website is used by employers to post job opportunities for their students.

"These include job advertisements, like the one posted by the Hong Kong police, which may interest international students who are considering returning home after they complete their studies," they said.

a crowd of protestors wearing black sit with signs calling for liberation.
Hong Kong protesters gathered last year with "Liberate Hong Kong" signs, a slogan which has now been criminalised.(ABC: Brant Cumming/ Hong Kong)

One Melbourne University alumni, Victor, who declined to give his surname for security reasons, said even in the past few days, arrests had been made under the new law.

"This included a person who only displayed the flag written with: 'Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times'," he said.

"The University of Melbourne cannot claim that they're unaware of the allegations against the police.

"[The law] covers everything that university students do in Hong Kong and Australia, including those studying at Melbourne University."

Victor said the university should have guidelines to review each recruitment post and said he didn't think the Hong Kong Police Force's conduct would have met the standard.

petition calling on the University of Melbourne to remove the ad has more than 1,400 signatures.

"This is not just a regular advertisement, this is an endorsement of dehumanisation and terrorism," the petition reads.

Mr Yu said he emailed the university's vice-chancellor and had lodged a complaint but had not received a response.

Students in Australia subject to new law

Under the law, passed by Beijing last week, the crimes of separatism, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces can result in life imprisonment.

The new law says destroying government facilities would be subversive while damaging public transport facilities and arson would be counted as terrorism.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said: "Australia is troubled by the law's implications for Hong Kong's judicial independence, and on the rights and freedoms enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong, both of which underpin the city's success."Seeking political asylumAt 22, Tommy should be enjoying his social science classes at university. Instead, he's seeking asylum as a political refugee in Australia after being on the front line of Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement.Read more

Australia has said it is considering offering safe haven to Hongkongers. Some have already applied for political asylum in Australia, while activist Nathan Law fled the territory to an unknown destination last week.

The Hong Kong Police Force did not respond to a request for comment last week but told the ABC in a statement in May that reaching out to university graduates was a "proactive strategy" to gain new recruits.

"The force will regularly review the recruitment strategy in light of the prevailing situation," HKPF said at the time.

In previous statements to the ABC, it denied excessive use of force, saying "rioters" had engaged in violence against police.

In March, a watchdog report cleared the force of wrongdoing, saying they acted within guidelines but highlighting there was "room for improvement".

The report said police "had found it necessary to resort on occasions to the use of force", due to "the violence they had to face in performance of their duty".

Hong Kong police fire water cannon at crowds.

But Human Rights Watch senior China researcher Maya Wang said some of HKPF members had used excessive force against protesters, and, "even more disturbingly, such practices appear to be sanctioned by the police chief". 

"The Hong Kong Police Force, once known for its professionalism and independence, is being turned into a tool for repression by the Chinese Government," Ms Wang said.

"Under the national security legislation, I believe the Hong Kong Police Force will only become more repressive."

The Hong Kong Police Force has seen increased funding and a shortage of officers.

Riot police raise their pepper spray projectile inside a shopping centre as they disperse protesters.
Riot police raise their pepper spray projectile inside as they disperse anti-government protesters in May.(Reuters: Tyrone Siu)

The HKPF created more than 2,500 new positions for police officers in the 2020–21 financial year, 14 times higher than the number of new recruits in 2019-20.

More than 90 per cent of the newly created jobs were for disciplinary personnel.Hongkongers eyeing escapeMany Hongkongers are looking at moving overseas in the wake of China's vote to impose a new national security law. The UK says it will change immigration rules, but some want to call Australia home.Read more

The police also rehired more than 1,600 officers who were about to retire to fill the police shortage.

According to a Legislative Council of Hong Kong document obtained by the ABC, nearly 450 police officers "quit unexpectedly" between June last year, when the protests began, and February this year. That was an increase of nearly 38 per cent in the same period the year before.

In addition to the police budget, the police have received about $HK25.79 billion specifically for maintaining social order, which was 2.5 times higher than the budget in 2019–20 financial year.

An independent investigation into alleged police brutality and misconduct has been one of the pro-democracy movement's five demands.

The reputation of the police has also shown a sharp downward trend since June last year.

According to data from the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, the proportion of citizens who were dissatisfied with the police force has increased from 28.1 per cent in June last year to 59.2 per cent in May this year.

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