Trump’s executive order confirms US State Department has trained the Hong Kong police

The US State Department's collaboration with Hong Kong police dates back more than a decade.

Hong Kong law enforcement officers, denoted by Hong Kong SAR flags on their name placards, attend a training at the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Bangkok in June 2019. Photo: U.S. State Department

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An executive order by US President Donald Trump has shed light upon the extent of the United States’ collaboration with the Hong Kong government — including that the State Department has been training the Hong Kong Police Force and other Hong Kong security officers for years.

Trump’s sweeping “Executive Order on Hong Kong Normalization,” issued July 14, orders the elimination of the United States’ differential policies on Hong Kong in relation to the People’s Republic of China. As part of the order, the State Department will now “take steps to end the provision of training to members of the Hong Kong Police Force or other security services at the Department of State’s International Law Enforcement Academies [ILEA].”

This confirms publicly available information from the State Department, which shows Hong Kong law enforcement officers have been trained by US State Department courses in Bangkok as recently as last year, with protests underway in Hong Kong.

A security agent takes part in the US State Department’s International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) Tactical Safety and Planning Course. Photo: US State Department

According to ILEA statements from last June, after protests in Hong Kong had already drawn millions into the streets, Hong Kong police participated in a training led by the US Secret Service on “investigating criminal use of cryptocurrency.”

Last January, Hong Kong police took part in a course taught by the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) on investigating the detonation of explosives inside vehicles.

In 2018, Hong Kong and Thai police officers participated in a two-week “Advanced Tactical Safety and Planning Course” taught by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), learning “advanced defensive tactics,” “operations in reduced light conditions,” and “drug raid planning.” The ILEA described the training as “cutting edge,” meant for officers who had already graduated from previous courses.

In 2017, Hong Kong officers joined an ILEA course on “advanced crime scene investigations.”

Law enforcement officers from ILEA participant countries and territories, including from Hong Kong, join an “advanced crime scene investigation” course at ILEA Bangkok on May 17, 2017. Photo: US State Department

Records show that the State Department’s collaboration with the Hong Kong Police Force dates back more than a decade. A State Department archive dated 2001-2009 reveals Hong Kong law enforcement have not only been participants at the ILEA but “resident trainers” who helped the State Department instruct other Asian security forces.

The ILEA was established in 1995 under US President Bill Clinton. The agency’s stated goals are to “improve coordination, foster cooperation, and, as appropriate, facilitate harmonization of law enforcement activities within regions, in a manner compatible with US interests.” The agency has five training centers around the world, including its Asia headquarters in Bangkok.

A 2006 State Department report on the Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, which has governed US-Hong Kong relations since Hong Kong’s handover, states the United States’ interest in “broadening law enforcement cooperation” with the Hong Kong police.

As of today, Hong Kong, Macau, and China are all still listed as “participating countries” in ILEA Bangkok.

Twelve flags, including those of Hong Kong, Macau, and China, represent the “participating countries” in the U.S. State Department’s International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Bangkok. Screenshot: U.S. State Department

President Trump’s confirmation of the State Department’s longstanding collaboration with the Hong Kong Police Force counters the conspiratorial accusations pushed by Hong Kong and Chinese authorities — with no evidence — that the State Department somehow trains millions of Hong Kong people to rise up in protest.

During the protest movement last year, the United States government had also approved the sale of military equipment to the Hong Kong Police Force, which included tear gas, firearms, and policing vehicles.

This lays bare the hypocrisy of the national security law‘s pretext of combating “foreign collusion.” As Hong Kong leftists have long pointed out, the states themselves are collaborating in the open to protect their ruling class.

This should serve as an important reminder that state violence in the United States is directly connected with state violence in Hong Kong and elsewhere. If policing is a globally articulated system, then our struggle for police abolition, too, must be global.