Hong Kong’s Security Bureau has hailed the use of voluntary “de-radicalisation” programmes for demonstrators behind bars who were involved in the 2019 pro-democracy protests and unrest.

Around 250 people in custody have taken part up until February, the Bureau told the legislature’s Finance Committee on Wednesday.

2019 protest laser tear gas
Hong Kong’s anti-extradition protests and unrest. File photo: Jimmy Lam/USP & HKFP.

The Correctional Services Department’s rehabilitation programmes aim to help inmates “disengage from radical thoughts and behaviours, and re-establish correct values,” through lessons about Chinese history, the Basic Law and the national security law, the Bureau wrote.

Other initiatives include workshops to help persons in custody enhance their sense of national identity and law-abidingness, as well as therapy sessions to handle extreme anti-social and violent mindsets.

The Security Bureau said the rehabilitation programmes have received “positive and favourable” responses from participants, adding that the initiatives will be continued.

Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre
Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre. Photo: Rhoda Kwan/HKFP.

According to the Legislative Council document, as of December 2021, more than 1,700 Hong Kong permanent residents aged 18 to 30 were in custody, with 187 of them are below the age of 18. There were also 89 people under statutory supervision because of their involvement in the anti-extradition protests and unrest.

Since 2019, more than 10,000 people have been arrested and over 2,000 have been charged over the demonstrations.

Protests erupted in June 2019 over a since-axed extradition bill. They escalated into sometimes violent displays of dissent against police behaviour, amid calls for democracy and anger over Beijing’s encroachment. Demonstrators demanded an independent probe into police conduct, amnesty for those arrested and a halt to the characterisation of protests as “riots.” 

HKFP has reached out to ex-lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun and current legislator Tik Chi-yuen for comment.

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Almond Li is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously worked for Reuters and Happs TV as a freelancer, and as a reporter at Hong Kong International Business Channel, Citizen News and Commercial Radio Hong Kong. She earned her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has an interest in LGBT+, mental health and environmental issues.