Pro-democracy politician Derek Chan Tak-cheung has filed two judicial reviews challenging the Correctional Services Department on alleged racial discrimination against inmates as well as a limit imposed on the number of books allowed inside prison.

Derek Chan Tak-cheung, secretary general of the League of Social Democrats, was jailed for three weeks after egging Financial Secretary John Tsang. Chan filed two judicial reviews on Tuesday and Thursday because of “clear differences in treatment based on inmates’ race and skin colour” and “the impedition of academic freedom” in prison, he said on Facebook.

Derek Chan sued the government for arrangements in jail. Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Lin Kristensen.
Derek Chan. Top right: Chinese food served to prisoners. Photo: Wikicommons & the CSD.

Chan reportedly said that inmates were given different foods based on their race. Ethnic Chinese inmates were apparently not allowed to eat western food, while food served to western prisoners appeared to be of a larger portion. He also said that Chinese and western prisoners were separated while dining.

He also alleged that he could only receive six books per month, meaning it hindered a thesis he was working on for his master’s degree in philosophy. The limit did not apply to religious books.

The Correctional Services Department (CSD) released a statement on August 18 refuting the racial discrimination claims. The statement said: “Racial equality is high on the Department’s agenda. No person in custody (PIC) will be treated less favourably on the ground[s] of race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin and it includes the meal arrangements for PICs.”

In regards to Chan’s comments on the limit on books prisoners can receive, the CSD responded on Thursday stating that the decision was “due to security and storage considerations.”

Derek Chan speaking outside the court.
Derek Chan speaking outside the court.

Chan said on Facebook: “If the CSD’s statement were true, then how come Southeast Asian inmates who are also ‘foreigners’ were also served Chinese food, and not categorised as ‘foreigners’ alongside white inmates and black inmates? This was obviously a racially discriminatory arrangement.”

On CSD’s response on books, Chan also said: “Religious books are unlimited, but storage is used as a reason to limit other books. So religious books don’t have storage issues?”

Chan was jailed for three weeks in April, after he was found guilty of common assault for throwing eggs at Financial Secretary John Tsang at a public forum in December 2013.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.