Almost 3,000 people including 517 minors have so far been prosecuted for offences linked to the 2019 anti-extradition bill protests, latest Hong Kong government figures show.

Police had apprehended a total of 10,279 people in connection with the months-long pro-democracy unrest as of August 31 this year, the Security Bureau told the Legislative Council on Wednesday. Among the arrestees, 1,754 were aged under 18.

china extradition protest mask
Photo: May James/HKFP.

As of the end of August, the authorities had prosecuted 2,893 of them, including 517 aged under 18. The bureau said 2,044 defendants had completed their judicial proceedings, with 80 per cent of them – or 1,631 individuals – “bearing legal consequences,” including prison sentences, community service orders, probation and binding-over orders.

Local courts imposed legal measures on 353 defendants who were minors at the time of their arrest, with the heaviest punishment being imprisonment of 5.5 years.

The city saw five teenagers from the self-proclaimed “revolutionary” group Returning Valiant sentenced under the national security law earlier this month, after they pleaded guilty to conspiring to incite subversion over calls for an “armed uprising.”

They became the first minors sentenced under the Beijing-imposed legislation after the District Court ordered them to spend time in a training centre, an alternative to imprisonment for those aged below 21. The youngest was aged 15 at the time of arrest.

Chinese-style foot drill

All young persons in custody must take part in Chinese-style foot drill, the Security Bureau said on Wednesday. Those sentenced to a training order under the Detention Centres Ordinance would be subject to rigorous discipline and tough physical exercise. This was intended to help the detainees understand, within a short time period, the “heavy price they have to pay for committing crimes.”

National security Hong Kong flag
Photo: GovHK.

In view of the situation where “quite a number of radical persons involved in serious offences” were admitted to correctional instructions in recent years, the bureau said the Correctional Services Department was striving to enhance the national identity of young people in custody by offering lessons on Chinese history and national education.

The curriculum, part of an initiative called “Project PATH,” would cover moral and civic education, Basic Law education and national security security education.

“[The educational initiative] helps them develop positive values and reflect on the meaning of life, thereby guiding them back on the right track,” the bureau told the legislature.

The project also included a psychological counselling programme for young detainees, as well as workshops to prepare them for employment or study opportunities upon release.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.