Opinion: Stopping ISIS in HK

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Evan Wilcox: Hong Kong is not immune to the threat of ISIS. Simple, low key, action now could prevent a disaster later.

The Chinese aircraft carrier, Liaoning-CV-16, has been spotted at the Syrian port of Tartus. Chinese military advisors may soon be on the ground in Syria to assist in the fight against ISIS. This may be the time to reflect on the threat ISIS, and its Xinjiang affiliate East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) pose to not only China but also Hong Kong.

With the seemingly never ending brutal war raging in Syria and Iraq, the world is witnessing the rise of a brutal caliphate bent on establishing an Islamic Kingdom where only the most strict Islamic practices apply. The images of Kurdish women and children being massacred, innocent men being gunned down and Syrian and Iraqi soldiers being beheaded en masse are now common.

Perhaps even more shocking than the sheer brutality of ISIS is the ability of the terror group to recruit legions of believers to its ranks in order to carry out anything from brutal murders to benign administrative tasks required for building a new state. With thousands of foreign fighters joining every month; countries including China, UK, France, Canada and Germany should be extremely worried about the return of these terrorists and what they may have in store for their own country.

What does this have to do with the price of tea in China?

As a result of China waging its own internal ‘war’ against the low to medium level Muslim insurgency in Xinjiang province (the morality of which will be left for another discussion), it has drawn ISIS’s (and other Muslim extremists groups’) attention. They have repeatedly included China in its list of nations who are ‘enemies to Islam’.

There have also been reports of numerous Uighurs within the ranks of the world’s worst terror organizations- including ISIS and Al Qaeda via the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). These groups are responsible for several bloody massacres of civilians and unarmed combatants in Syria; most recently this past September when several ETIM fighters were photographed mutilating more than 50 captured Syrian soldiers in Idlib Province.

The arrival of the Chinese navy in Syria signals a deep fear within the Government of Xi Jingping that the war in Syria may very well become a war at home.

The threat against Hong Kong

With a festering democracy/anti-China movement in Hong Kong ISIS/ETIM may see it as an opportunity to play a ‘chaos card’ by creating further havoc in the streets

Where does this leave Hong Kong? There have been numerous reports of Bahasa language propaganda pamphlets aimed at recruiting domestic helpers to the ISIS ranks and to do so through Xinjiang. There have also been sightings of apparent recruiters appearing at Sunday gatherings of the domestic workers in an effort to sign them up to work with the caliphate. Admittedly these reports are always hard to prove with the likelihood of any domestic helpers joining at almost zero.

The second area which may leave Hong Kong vulnerable is the current political atmosphere.  With a festering democracy/anti-China movement in Hong Kong, ISIS/ETIM may see it as an opportunity to play a ‘chaos card’ by creating further havoc in the streets by planning an attack targeting either side of the protests in order to achieve its goals of destabilizing China.

Direct measures

[T]he Hong Kong government should do everything it can to improve the lives of vulnerable refugees and domestic helpers to ensure they do not resent Hong Kong and its people

Hong Kong’s government should not be sanguine and their efforts to protect Hong Kong start at our borders. Hong Kong immigration officials should perform secondary security checks and/or refuse entry to any foreigner/non-resident who has travelled to Syria, Libya or Iraq who is entering Hong Kong. Additionally, immigration should also perform secondary checks on all residents who have travelled to these countries in the last 12 months (excepting journalists and humanitarian workers).

Social media – watch it

It is no secret ISIS uses social forums in the internet in order to recruit ignorant individuals. The Hong Kong government should dedicate resources to monitor said forums to determine if any threats are imminent or if there is any general chatter about threats targeting Hong Kong.

Kill the root cause

Lastly, the Hong Kong government should do everything it can to improve the lives of vulnerable refugees and domestic helpers to ensure they do not resent Hong Kong and its people. As we have seen in the United Kingdom, France, Canada, and Belgium many times it is a disgruntled person within the country who turns to terrorism to inflict carnage.

Overall, Hong Kong is likely safe from any threat largely due to its ambiguous international standing and reputation as a non-political entity. However, Hong Kong should not relent in its fight against terrorism. Enhancing security in a non-intrusive way that can provide the people of Hong Kong an added layer of protection and peace of mind that they all deserve.