Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Young Hong Kong Protestors Held in “Deradicalization” Camps

by Gregory P. Teixeira


In Hong Kong, young arrestees incarcerated during mass protests four years ago are being held in detention centers where they are subjected to a “deradicalization” program to suppress their political activism and instill outward conformity with pro-Beijing views.

As of April 30, 2023, the Correctional Services Department said 871 juvenile detainees under 21 had participated in the program, around 70% of whom were charged in the 2019 protests. The detainees, some as young as 14, have been held in juvenile lockups where they are closely monitored and given pro-China lectures and psychological counseling. There are also forced military marches and a lot of singing.

Former detainees and guards report that the program also includes harsh punishment such as solitary confinement. Those who have been released described their everyday living conditions in prison as oppressive and silencing, eroding their will to fight.

The prisoner population has swelled in Hong Kong’s 24 lockups with the surge of protest-related arrests – most for minor infractions such as vandalism or unauthorized assembly. Former Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying drew comparisons between the protestors and drug addicts as he pushed for “de-radicalizing” Hong Kong youth.

Detainees report that they are pressured to admit they were manipulated and even paid by foreigners. They are also forced to watch daily videos promoting the national security law under which they were arrested. The ultimate objective, according to one former guard, is to create a sense of hopelessness among the detainees, discouraging them from future activism and even from staying in Hong Kong.

The coercive nature of the deradicalization program is similar to repressive tactics the government has employed in Xinjiang against Uyghur Muslims. Of course, imprisoning people and trying to brainwash them does not usually change their political beliefs, merely their will to express them. But that is apparently enough for the state.

The focus on young detainees is part of the broader suppression of any political speech challenging authorities in Hong Kong, where dissent has been criminalized and carries severe penalties. The tactics employed are like those refined over decades by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to suppress dissent and enforce ideological conformity.

Retired Princeton University East Asian Studies Professor Perry Link said the CCP’s “technique of making you feel like you are the minority is very tried and true.”

“[I]n Hong Kong in 2019, 2 out of 7 [people] million were on the streets,” he said, “yet when they grab you and get you in jail, they psychologically engineer it for you to feel like you are in the minority, and ‘we, the party, we are the mainstream.’”


Source: Washington Post

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login