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Catholics Decry Hong Kong ‘Re-Education’ of Pro-Democracy Protesters

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Hong Kong authorities are forcing young inmates arrested during the 2019 pro-democracy protests to attend “patriotic education” sessions to cleanse them of “extreme ideological views,” reports a Catholic watchdog group.

The re-education programs being applied by Hong Kong authorities mimic those of the “brainwashing” techniques employed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to the Uyghurs in Xinjiang and underground Chinese Catholics who refuse to enlist in the state-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, reveals AsiaNews, the official press agency of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, in a report Wednesday.

In 2019, the Hong Kong democratic movement staged mass protests against the application of a law that would have allowed judicial extradition to China. The demonstrations then grew to include calls for universal suffrage and greater popular participation in government.

According to data provided by the Hong Kong city government, of the tens of thousands of people arrested, more than 1,000 were under the age of 18. Security Secretary Chris Tang told Legco (the city Parliament) that the prosecutor had criminally prosecuted 517 minors arrested in connection with the 2019 protests.

In addition to the forced military marches and exercises, young people in custody are forced to attend lessons in “civic and moral education” and national security, AsiaNews reported. These re-education programs are also imposed on primary and secondary school students, as well as university students, after a draconian Beijing-sponsored national security law was adopted in the summer of 2020 to crack down on the pro-democracy movement.

The former Catholic bishop of Hong Kong, the 90-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen, is currently being tried for allegedly failing to properly register the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which provided legal and medical assistance to jailed protesters of the democracy movement.

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