Wednesday, January 11, 2023

China's "Project Path" not convincing democracy protesters

Since China passed a draconian national security law back in mid-2020, hundreds of Hong Kong residents have been arrested for the crime of supporting democratic governance and independence for Hong Kong, including some high-profile individuals like Apple Daily publisher Jimmy Lai. In November 2021, China, in tried-and-tested totalitarian style, also instituted a program called "Project Path", designed to put these lost souls "back on the right track".

Project Path, administered by Hong Kong's Correctional Services Department, is a "deradicalization" program to "enhance their sense of national identity". Hong Kong's tame pro-China secretary for security, Chris Tang, has hailed it as a great success, having treated hundreds of arrested anti-government protesters over the last year and a bit.

Some have described the program as an exercise in brainwashing, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that Project Path is really just an unsophisticated, simplistic propaganda program, attempting to force intensely pro-China materials on offenders in the vain hope that they will be convinced of the wisdom of the Chinese way. 

One participant has explained, under conditions of anonymity, that if inmates didn't agree with the propaganda, they were forced to continue with the program. If, however, they just pretended to go along with it, they were released with a reduced sentence. The inmates quickly realized this, and this graduate of the program estimates that maybe one in ten participants were actually being convinced.

The heavy-handed Chinese security clampdown in Hong Kong has effectively stifled public dissent, and mass rallies are a thing of the past. However, it seems clear that widespread unrest and dissent continues to simmer below the calm surface. And Clockwork Orange-style re-education programs like Project Path are unlikely to change that. 

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