Hong Kong/China (23/5). In a further escalation what terror experts call, the ‘path of extremism’, Hong Kong Police Officers (HKPF) prevented today (23/5) a knife jihad like attack against female staff of the Kowloon Federation of Associations (KFA), a known pro-government association.
Urban Guerrillas in the making?
Albert Wilkinson, a senior researcher on extremist groups like the Marxist Autonome and the Black Block said in an telephone interview from Berlin, ‘What should be deeply concerning to the citizens of Hong Kong, policy officials and national security agencies in Hong Kong is the decreasing in age and willingness to kill and harm their fellow citizens over differences in political views’.
He understands, in talking to some extremists in Germany and the U.K. who have close ties to the Hong Kong extremist’s scene, the offenders were as young as 15/16-year old carrying butcher knives while stalking the pro-government booth near the mass transit exit at Kowloon Bay MTR station. This suggest premeditated planning on the parts of the young trio.
Little is yet known about the attackers as investigations are underway.
‘The recruitment and willingness to use knives as a method of attack is particularly concerning to us in the field of terrorism research’, he added. ‘It indicates a structured recruitment, indoctrination and radicalization process of underaged and young adults in Hong Kong who are ready to kill for a cause’, he said. ‘But more concerning is the inciting to the crime. It is deeply disconcerting to incite hate by means of terror.’
‘We can draw a direct line to historical examples of urban guerrilla movements around the world who prey on the underaged, young adults to exploit their vulnerabilities, insecurities, or troubled home.’, the senior researcher said.
‘Hong Kong Police officials and the government should be genuinely concerned.’
‘In particularly in the early stages of the development of an urban guerrilla structure as the Black Block promotes, we see a fascination with the rebellion against the system, the government. It is chic and trendy to rebel. But this has lethal consequences for society if not stopped in the early stages of development.’
‘Exploiting already preconceived grievances, skilful recruiters of the Black Block provide an in-group conditions to justify the use of extreme violence.’, Wilkinson said. ‘In this instance the extremists in Hong Kong extremist recruiters incite these young kids to an act of extreme violence are no different than knife-jihadist attacking people at bus stations in Israel or driving trucks into crowds as we have seen during the Christmas season in Germany.’, the researcher noted. ‘Prepare for more to come.’
He pointed out that the number game is important. The cells and groups never travel alone, never act alone. The researcher dismissed the lone-wolf theories, or leaderless group claims made by the media, radicals, and extremists. ‘I would not be surprised to see shortly a video surfacing suggesting police brutality or other claims’, drawing on the experiences of past incidents in Hong Kong. ‘This suggests a structured plan of action.’
Extremist call these recruits the ‘expandables’. ‘What many young recruits, and police officials fail to understand is the process of becoming not a bystander with a cause, but this is a deliberate potential recruits to commit acts that ends in tears, jail-sentences or worse, death.’, he said.
Minors are recruited with the aim to radicalize the offender, to persuade the minor to take part in a crime. ‘This initiation process is not unlike joining a gang or a new family, like a terror group, only more extreme.
It is the same process Islamic State, Taliban or Al Qaeda uses when grooming terror pups, as they are called. The end process, such as this attempted attack, is the ultimate test to pass to the next level of radicalization.’, he added.
‘Officials are still confusing radicalism with extremism. That is a mistake and only gives the extremist the legitimization they so desperately seek. ‘Call acts of terror what they are’, the researcher said.
‘Police officials in Hong Kong and elsewhere are often too worried about the public image but fail to see the big picture of how extreme the groups are fast becoming’. He added that terrorism do not worry about television ratings or reputational impacts. ‘They are deeply confident, like a faith in the righteousness of their cause’.
Hong Kong is undergoing deep, societal transformation triggered by external influences and domestic grievances which left unchallenged. Skilful operators from the extremist, anarchist scene in Europe and around the globe exploited the vacuum created since the hand over. Extremists have set up cells in Hong Kong as early as 2014. After the failed Umbrella Movement we saw an drastic increase in extremist, vanguard like ideology that promotes violence and incites hate appearing in Hong Kong.
‘Being leftist extremist, calling for revolution and setting your fellow citizen on fire, was liberating, cleansing.’ Brian Leung who is now in exile and wanted by authorities called the violence ‘an act of symbolism’.
The researcher added, ‘that Leung however quoted every extremist leftist who used this slogan since 1968. Most often the slogan was associated with members of the terror group the Red Army Faction (RAF) that emerged out of the German Autonomes. Oddly enough’, he said, ‘even the Nazis saw the book burning as a symbolic act.’
‘We often find reasons for using violence against the ‘others’, like immigrants from China, talking funny or looking different, or as we seen in Germany Turkish immigrants even if they are born in Germany, target for hate crimes. De-personalizing the victim, to set them on fire, slaughter them like sheep, as seen in Iraq or Afghanistan, are structured processes of dehumanization the victim’.
He explained further, ‘The setting alights of the police officer and a citizen who disagreed with the rioters are not justifiable acts and should have set off alarm bells with security officials, politicians and the public as a whole. These acts have nothing to do with democracy. But squarely are extremism and acts of terrorism.’, the German expert added.
The trio is currently under investigation and will be charged under the Hong Kong criminal ordinances under Wounding with Intent and possession of offensive weapons. The maximum sentence is a life sentence but carry lengthy prison terms.
Police contacts at headquarters in Wan Chai shared the concerns of the experts in an off the record interview following arrests. ‘Of course, we are concerned not only about the age of the offenders but who is behind inciting the violence and recruited the offenders.’, he said. ‘We are investigating and make no mistake we will find out.’
Celine Wong, a free-lance kitchen worker who took her young daughter for a walk in the park near the exit of the Kowloon Bay MTR Station said, ‘I was shocked to see these youngsters carrying knifes and starting an argument with some lady of the Kowloon Federation of Associations (KFA).’ Suddenly she saw a commotion and police officers chasing after some guy clad in a black and white t-shirt.
‘I was really worried until I heard from some bystanders the police were successful and arrested the knife carrying offenders. Thank God, nobody was hurt. This is not good and hope the police can put a stop to all of this violence.’