China’s state-run Global Times on Wednesday announced a major recruiting drive across the nation for the police force in Shenzhen, the city that just happens to be closest to Hong Kong.
Observers have long viewed the massing of police in Shenzhen as an effort to intimidate protesters in Hong Kong, although some wonder if the Chinese Communist Party might be worried about the protest movement spreading to Shenzhen and other cities in China’s high-tech hub region.
The Global Times could not help admitting the obvious Hong Kong connection in the Shenzhen recruiting drive, which aims to bring at least 2,500 new auxiliary police officers to the city for “duties including security patrols and law enforcement of criminal and economic offenses.”
“Analysts said that despite the recruitment is a regular staffing move, the ongoing rioting in Hong Kong may serve as a wakeup call for Shenzhen and other metropolis worldwide to replenish their staffing needs and boost their force to help maintain public order and contain activities endangering social safety,” the Communist Party paper modestly allowed.
The rest of the article focused on how “lighthearted” the recruitment drive is, and how much fun it would be to sign up with the Shenzhen P.D.:
“Your previous job may bring you flabby muscles, here we help you get V-cut abs. Don’t leave any regrets for your youth because you’re fat!” reads the advertisement.
“Today’s Shenzhen is welcoming another opportunity with the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and a pilot demonstration area of socialism with Chinese characteristics as it was 40 years ago. Choosing today’s Shenzhen, you choose infinite possibilities in the future!” said the advertisement.
The recruitment is the second this year. Shenzhen police recruited 2,300 auxiliary police officers in February for security patrols, investigations and law enforcement.
China has been working hard to build up Shenzhen and a few other cities in the area as alternatives to Hong Kong, including a recent publicity push to present Shenzhen as the “socialist model city” in an era of Big Data-driven central planning. Why the socialist model city needs to recruit thousands of additional police officers from across China every few months is not addressed by these P.R. campaigns.
The latest effort to use Shenzhen to influence Hong Kong involves offering accommodations to Chinese students fleeing disruptions in Hong Kong.
“Associations in Shenzhen were helping students wanting to leave Hong Kong by sharing posts on social media with instructions on who to contact for transport and assistance,” the South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday.
Hong Kong police offered a boat to ferry students to the mainland on Wednesday morning, without disclosing the number of passengers on board, although local media accounts suggested about a hundred people were gathered on the pier awaiting departure.
Shenzhen has one clear advantage over Hong Kong at the moment: it is obviously more placid and appealing to shoppers and vacationers than the tumultuous island city, as a number of visitors have testified.
This makes it all the more curious that Beijing is essentially massing troops in the city without trying to appear as if they are doing so. If the goal was to intimidate Hong Kong, the subterfuge and happy-face recruiting ads would not be necessary, although Beijing might be reluctant to openly admit the situation is spiraling so far out of control in Hong Kong that it needs reinforcements at the ready.
The notion that Beijing is worried about the Hong Kong democracy contagion spreading to its closest cities seems more plausible – and it is a little disturbing that the Shenzhen buildup is trying to bring in recruits from other areas of China, as Beijing once found it necessary to roll in troops from other areas to crush the Tiananmen Square revolution because soldiers might have been reluctant to open fire on people from their own communities.