Hong Kong (11/11). The fun is going on, droves of classmates are joining the Black Bloc rioters in Hong Kong to fight for a cause. All dressed up, borrowed money from mum to buy a respirator and Adidas track pants, black scarf and hooked up with “Kim”, not her real name, and to joined the Affinity Group called the “Sly Dragons”. Ben, not his real name, is in charge. He just returned from Australia and went on some action workshop.
On the soccer pitch the two leaders of the squad, introduces Sam and Kim to the group. After some weeks of training, helping the squad in some action, travelling together as a group, bonding and share experiences and joining others in some actions against the “po-po” (the police), we followed the squad meeting the “fire magicians” throwing home-molotov cocktails at the police before running away. But then disaster struck, Kim started to cry, her “demo buddy” ran away and left her behind…….we got arrested.
Hong Kong’s violent protesters should face the full force of the law – being young is no excuse..(Grenville Cross)
In an article in the South China Morning Post Grenville Cross a criminal justice analyst laid out a compelling argument on what youngsters are facing. The unintended consequence of a conviction participating in the riots is long lasting regardless if a billionaire gets on the state in the U.S. and claims the youngster “willingness to die” for their cause.
If anyone has ever seen a 22-year old convulsing and loses his bladder function as the result of a fall and slowly dying should rethink his responsibility as a leader before making grandeur statements glorifying death. No glorification in death or prison.
Enter the legal system
The story above played out in Hong Kong. A 22-year student died and scores of young citizens of Hong Kong were arrested. According to police contacts the number of Hong Kong youngsters participating in demonstrations surprised officials.
So does the rage and hate hurdled at the Hong Kong Police officers. Statistics show a steady increase in injuries sustained by police officer who were doxxed, their families attacked and personal details exposed. Both sides are digging in with the Hong Kong Police taking a harder stance.
Emotions boiled over to the extent of anger and hate unable to be controlled by teachers and the police. The two young female were agitating the university crowd after the Hong Kong Police arrested an another student.
“Many of the arrested youth do not understand the consequences once the court charges them and convicts them of rioting”, says a police officer. “Everyone speaks of democracy, and universal suffrage but nobody understand a criminal conviction is for life.”, he added.
This was echoed by a prominent lawyer who specializes in criminal law. “No doubt the riots are good for business, but many of the arrested youngster get a real reality check once they enter the criminal justice system. Prison is no joke“, he warns, “Regardless of the views you might hold.”
Prisoners face a strict regime of rising at 6.30am, lunch at midday, dinner at 4.30pm and one hour of free time each day which they can spend in the yard, and bedtime at 10pm. He will only receive one toilet roll every three weeks. (SCMP)
“My clients are young and this is their first time experience with the police, courts and prison,” he added, “it a hard landing when reality sets in a 17-year old is getting convicted with a 5 year sentence for rioting. Everyone loses, the parents, the convicted teenager. Even the police officers who are portrayed as some monster actually most of them having kids in the same age do not like to see a 16-17-year of get locked up.”
Many in the police, lawyers, and social worker warn of the unintended consequence of spending time in general population. Once the teenager passes the legal adult age he will be transferred to general population and the juvenile teenager now is exposed to hardened criminals, gangs and all the dark side life in jail offers.
Once released the criminal record stays with the now convicted protester beyond his jail term, and beyond the borders of Hong Kong. Since the conviction use Commonwealth Laws the criminal record applies to all states in the European Union, England and Wales, Australia, even Singapore and Malaysia.
Most countries are using a simply phrase while applying for a visa. “Have you ever been convicted of a crime. If yes, where and for what offense please explain?”. As noble as the battle may sound but governments across the globe are looking at leftist extremism with greater scrutiny.
Can a conviction in Hong Kong be a reason to deny a visa to study in the U.S. “Absolutely”, said a U.S. official on the condition of anonymity. “We will give the case its consideration but generally speaking a criminal record is a no-go.”
False promises, false prophets?
“What none of the political leaders, like Agnes Chow, Jimmy Lai and Joshua Wong or clergy and activists explain is what is their justification for bringing the people on the streets.”, a German academic who specializes in militancy in civil society says, “throwing a brick on a police officers head, is attempted murder. In most of the democratic countries.”
“Building a Molotov cocktail is considered in the extreme cases a terrorism offense. Arson remains a criminal offense. Beating somebody up for not speaking the same dialect is is most countries considered a hate crime. The romanticized vision of the elites getting the kids out of jail is naive and far away from reality.”, he added.
A growing concern is the radicalisation in jail experts warn. “Let’s take a 18-or 19-year arrested teenager as an example,” a social worker with the Hong Kong Correction Service says, “by the time he is released he now is 22-or 23-years old. A fully formed individual re-enters society. And then what? He has no job, a criminal record, likely not finished his school, and then what next?”
Signs of the first radicalizations appear with young offenders and repeating offenders appearing in the arrest records. “We see as young as 12-year olds, 14-years olds getting arrested for the variety of juvenile offenses and taking part in the unrest. It’s a sad day when we lose our youth to stupid, radical ideas which think this is the new cool, hip thing. It is not.” he added.
Nathan Law and Joshua Wong had their first experience of jail. Maybe it is about time to tell everyone what it is really like in jail.
The international experience
“The 2019 riots were a stepping stone to normalize violence in society”, said Dr. William Duncan with the Civil Society Research Institute. “Once you are destroy a public asset, a CCTV, throw a molotov cocktail and get away with it, confidence grows. Bringing the otherwise couch potato, video playing youngster into the orbit or radical ideology.”, he added. The next step into the extremist field is just an evolution that takes time and influence.
By 2020 todays rioters are ready, trained and willing to go the next step. If released by 2024 and not rehabilitated the next generation of hardened criminals grown up in prison, expert warn. The Black Bloc is an extremist movement. They are not democrats despite some cycles of Hong Kong society are sympathetic to their cause.
“Ignored in the current thinking of police officials are the post action period. The Black Bloc in particularly prides itself to have tight control over its group members”. He added, “the Left Wing Extremists are identical to the Right-Wing, neo-nazis in Europe or the jihadists.” The Israeli police formed a specialist unit following the suicide attacks of HAMAS, the German Police and many others adopted the shooters-and-the thinkers into their ranks.
“I can train a monkey to shoot a grouping in a 18-inch plate”, said one grumpy counter-terror expert when asked what his country did following the Bali bombings. “but you can’t train him to think. We had to adapt, learn quickly, and listen to people and experts, who are now friends. Many things we applied were trial and error but we never stopped learning. Constantly retrying, and changing our old habits. We had to, too much was at stake.”, he added. “We looked for help, from many places, some known, some unusual help. We had faith in the people’s honesty wanting to help us. Many of them are experts in their field and did not speak a work of our language.”
“It was horrible, the dead, the injured, building burning. Bombs going off in the capital, the stock market and the tourist economy dead. Communities ready to kill each other. Distrust on every corner. It took hard work, very painful lessons, restoring a solid intelligence network and throw overboard some wrong assumptions we held and worked hard to restore the trust by the public and fight the rumors.”, he added.
“So now you lock up a large segment of your most educated and skilled future generation of citizens. What you going to do with them once they are out?”, a Singapore based-deradicalization academic said. “What structures do you have in place, including religious, education and family who are counter negative influences to prevent recidivism.”
The Hong Kong Police is battling with the new concepts which are successful in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, even Saudi Arabia, Syria, the Europe and other places. Officers in the Hong Kong Police are still hanging on the concept this is a public disorder narrative. Many ex-police officer are openly critical of the tactics applied by the force today.
“They [tactics] were already obsolete when the Brits used it. Policing has and must evolve. Society changes so much policing. Kids are smarter, witty, and innovative to beat the police. They show it everyday. And it gives them a purpose if some overloaded with gear Brontosaurus jugs down the street trying to catch one of us.”, says Lee, a post doctoral student in criminal justice and sociology in Hong Kong.
“The question is if the Hong Kong police willing to listen”, she added. Good point, one might add.