NPC deputies to visit Xinjiang camps amid turmoil in Hong Kong

August 15, 2019 19:12
A "re-education camp" in northwestern Xinjiang. Hong Kong deputies to the NPC will visit the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region at the end of month, during which they are expected to visit the controversial facilities. Photo: AFP

Hong Kong deputies to the National People’s Congress (NPC) are scheduled to pay an official visit to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region at the end of this month, during which they are expected to visit the "re-education camps" there.

Yet their visit to these controversial camps at a time when Hong Kong is engulfed in political turmoil may inevitably provoke suspicions among the public.

A local NPC deputy has said the Xinjiang trip had been arranged several months ago. And the visit to the “re-education camps” was actually arranged at the request of some Hong Kong NPC members, who had expressed interest in finding out more about how these facilities actually work.

Nevertheless, as an NPC delegate has said in private, since these “notorious” camps have already been widely reported by western media in recent years, the delegate believed their visit to these facilities could have been carefully and deliberately planned by mainland authorities so that they could serve as “ambassadors” for these camps.

The problem is, the deputy said, if members of the delegation witness something which they “aren’t supposed to see” when visiting these camps, it would be hard for them to explain what they saw during the trip to the local public after they have returned to Hong Kong.

Besides, the person added, visiting these “re-education camps” in this highly sensitive period would arouse public suspicions that they are going there to gain insights into how to “re-educate” the young people of Hong Kong.

At the end of last year, the Security Bureau led a delegation of the SAR government’s Inter-departmental Counter-Terrorism Unit (ICTU) to go to Xinjiang and visit local counter-terrorism units and police facilities, a counter-terrorism tactical center and the police training school.

The Security Bureau explained that, as the situation in Xinjiang has improved in recent years, the region's counter-terrorism experience may be able to serve as a reference for Hong Kong when it comes to formulating and optimizing the city’s counter-terrorism strategy and capability.

During a Q&A session at the Legislative Council on January 9 this year, Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu told lawmakers that members of the ICTU didn’t visit the local “vocational skills training institutes” during their Xinjiang trip, the official name for the “re-education camps” used by the mainland.

Then came the extradition bill saga. As the protests and police actions intensified, it is widely expected that the unrest will only deepen.

A Hong Kong NPC delegate said while members of the pro-establishment camp have to support the administration and the police, they must also figure out ways to win the hearts and minds of the people and bring back peace and order in the long run.

That being said, the re-introduction of the national education curriculum would be an unavoidable topic for discussion in the coming days, the delegate said.

But as far as short-term measures to de-escalate ongoing confrontations are concerned, he admitted that members of the pro-Beijing camp are still at a loss as to what to do next.

Recently, an online micro-movie, which seeks to promote unity in society and the “Lion Rock spirit”, has been circulating within the pro-establishment camp.

Perhaps, the first and foremost thing that they must do is to let that message go beyond their camp and spread it people of different political views and various age groups in our city.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 12

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.