A legal challenge over prisoners’ rights raised by the just deceased “king of thieves” Yip Kai-foon will also expire unless his family chooses to carry on with it.

Yip, who was shot when he was arrested in 1996, was left paralysed from the waist down. He also suffered from chronic stomach pain.

Yip lodged a judicial review last year after the Correctional Services refused to provide him with Chinese medicine treatment. The court has approved the application and a lawmaker helping Yip said he had a chance of winning.

Yip Kai-foon
Yip Kai-foon on a wheelchair. File

The application said the Hospital Authority confirmed in 2001 that Western medicine was no longer effective for him.

Yip started asking to be treated with Chinese medicine in 2004 but was refused using different reasons. Authorities asked Yip to provide scientific proof that it would not conflict with his Western medicine treatment, and asked the doctor who diagnosed him to monitor the treatment.

The application said Dr. Ko Wing-man diagnosed Yip’s cancer in 2007 and agreed that he should receive Chinese medicine treatment, but the issue did not go any further after discussion with the Correctional Services.

Yip Kai-foon
Yip Kai-foon was shot when arrested in 1996. File

In 2014, a Baptist University Chinese medicine expert confirmed that Yip’s long-term pain was a side effect of anaesthetics, and that Chinese medicine with acupuncture could relieve his pain.

Yip’s lawsuit challenged Correctional Service’s practice of only providing Western medicine on the grounds that it violated the Basic Law and the Bill of Rights Ordinance.

Lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung, who was helping Yip, said “the situation is quite unfortunate” as he died after the court accepted the case.

“It is only waiting for scheduling. Lawyers told me there is quite a high chance of winning, as we have done a lot of preparation,” he said.

“If his relatives say they requested Chinese medicine treatment for him, and that he died because of the lack of it, this could be a reason to appeal to the court to continue the judicial review,” he added. “But I have not heard anything just yet.”

Leung Yiu-chung
Leung Yiu-chung. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

Otherwise, the court will terminate the proceedings.

Leung said that Yip was concerned about prisoners’ rights, and he succeeded with a previous campaign for prisoners to be allowed thermos bottles for warm water.

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.