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Radicalization, a threat against HK security

The phenomena of extremist, radicalization, and terrorism are commonly identified as an important and critical issue because of its unclear but destructive impacts against the society’s security and stability. Countries in western world have a long history in studying its natures, characteristics, causations, controls, consequences, preventions, and similarity & differences due to their long suffers from the threats of local and global terrorism. It is no doubt that the rise of populist extremism is one of the most pressing challenges ahead for any legitimate government. Citizens have shifted behind populist extremist parties since 1970s, and these parties share two core features – (1) rejecting the principle of general principle of equality and advocating exclusionary policies towards immigrants; and (2) adhering to a populist anti-establishment strategy.

Hong Kong has enjoyed decades of rapid economic development due to its positive reputation of low crime rate, high personal safety, positive social stability, and the cooperation among agencies of the criminal justice system. The Safe Cities Index conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Hong Kong as 6th in Asia in Asia-Pacific and 11th in the world in terms of personal safety in 2015. Particularly regarding to the crime rate, Hong Kong overall crime rate had declined for nine consecutive years and dropped to a 36-year low. However, the recent crime figure shows that it is no longer true. In fact, Hong Kong is facing another unprecedented challenge since the Handover in 1997, which is the proliferate of far-right ideology and increasing support of far-right movement.

Radicalization is a sophisticated topic mixed with multi-disciplinary subjects including sociology, criminology, psychology, political and security studies; hence it still does not have a clear-cut definition. In general, governments and scholars agree to refer it as a changing process that push individuals/groups of people to take action to pursue his ideological belief. A process itself is not problematic – yet in most cases, it involves the justification of violence.

Jenkins, who is an American expert on terrorism and had served as an advisor to the U.S. Department of State and Defense, shared his expertise during his testimony to Committee on homeland Security of U.S. House of Representatives relating to terrorist development. He stated that “it in most cases involve the justification of violence as it comprises internalizing a set of beliefs, a militant mindset that embraces violent”. Wilner and Dubouloz, the author of a radicalization article named “Homegrown Terrorism and Transformative Learning: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Understanding Radicalization” published in Global Change Peace & Security describe it in a more detail version:

“Radicalization is, first and foremost, a process of change, in which non-violent individuals come to accept, and promote violent activity.... is best understood as a personal process in which the individual adopts extreme political, social, or religious ideals and aspirations, and where the attainment of particular goals justifies the use of indiscriminate violence”.

More importantly, radicalization, in certain critical situations, could become a main source of domestic and international terrorism. According to the Global Terrorism Index, it found out two key facts – (1) majority of terrorist attacks in the globe was caused by far-right extremist groups; (2) the total number of far-right terrorist attacks are increasing significantly over the past decade. The situation in U.S. is even worse. Centre of American Progress indicated that the terrorist attacks in U.S. were mainly organized by far-right extremist groups (like white-supremacy, extreme patriots, anti-immigrants groups) with nearly 56%; eco-terrorists (such as Animal Liberation Front) was the second highest with 30%, and Islamic was only 12%.

Hong Kong has experienced a serious period of violent radicalization after en messes political movements and intensive confrontation among the Blues and Yellows that resulted a high magnitude of strains and grievances. The rise of organized far-right violent groups, mainly the Pink-team, Black-bloc, Raptor Slayer Unit and V Unit were the early sign of far-right domestic terrorism. Especially the Raptor Slayer Unit and V Unit, claiming that they were following the modus operandi of Irish Republican Army (a paramilitary group against U.K. government in Northern Ireland), and encourage the use of lethal forces to fight against government. Although these groups were being cracked down because of effective anti-crime operations by law enforcement agencies, it is still unclear whether these groups’ members still highly active or not. In fact, leaderless resistances cum lone-wolf attacks, theorized by a well-known U.S. far-right leader named Louis Ray Beam, Jr., are a common method adopted by far-right groups in order to organize hate crime attacks, as it could secretly recruit like-minded individuals and increase the difficulties of legal prosecution, intelligence detection and crackdown from law enforcement agencies.Radicalization is not disappearing anytime soon.

On the contrary, we should expect that it will be rooted in our society for years or even decades. The PRC Central Government had implemented a top-down, state-centered and authoritative national security policy in Hong Kong that has covered the spectrum of counter-terrorism through coercive measures, but its effectiveness is still questioning. Indeed, so far, none of the countries can solve issues caused by radicalization and terrorism by only enacting national security law. The situation is a tragedy for Hong Kong, and the society – from now on – must face the fact that we are all living under the shadow of violent radicalization.


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