Lawmakers have urged Chief Executive Carrie Lam to form an independent investigation committee to look into the alleged torture of juvenile inmates by Correctional Services officers.

The move was prompted by the latest revelation in a report by news site HK01, who interviewed 50 anonymous former juvenile inmates incarcerated at different times between the 1990s and 2014. Speaking on the alleged abuse, an interviewee claimed he was slapped and received permanent hearing damage; another claimed he was forced to eat lying down “like a dog”; others claimed prisoners were assaulted with wooden rulers, officers’ elbows, kicked or forced to consume their urine, faeces, or ejaculate.

Fernando Cheung and Shiu Ka-chu. File Photo: HKFP.

The institutions allegedly involved included Pik Uk Correctional Institution, Cape Collinson Correctional Institution, Sha Tsui Correctional Institution, Lai Chi Rehabilitation Centre and the Hei Ling Chau Addiction Treatment Centre.

The report came after similar reports in June, and a widely-reported film With Prisoners depicting the alleged abuse which was screened in cinemas in May.

Labour Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung and social welfare sector lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun said the incidents were wide-ranging and not one-off cases. The two have been following up on similar complaints.

Lawmakers of the Legislative Council Subcommittee on Children’s Rights visited Sha Tsui Correctional Institution in May 2017. File Photo: GovHK.

Cheung said the alleged abuses were “completely unacceptable.”

“The situation is shocking… The number of correctional officers involved, range of officers’ ranks and range of timing [that abuse occurred] are all large,” Cheung said. “At this stage, we cannot deny that these accusations are not merely individual cases – these accusations are serious…,” he added.

“Prisoners of different eras, who don’t know each other, all spoke of very personal and very detailed torture – and these cases also have very common features. We can no longer assume that they were made up.”

Cheung said the cases described by former inmates violated the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Hong Kong Bill of Rights and Hong Kong criminal law.

Shiu and Cheung urged an independent investigation, instead of an internal investigation by the Correctional Services Department.

Emily Lau (right) visiting prison in 2016. Photo: Facebook/Emily Lau.

Justices of Peace are responsible for visiting prisons and listening to complaints. However, complaints between 1999 and 2015 were all held to be unsubstantiated, according to their annual reports. The government Administration Wing arranged visits for 1,300 Justices of Peace during the period.

Cheung and Shiu will issue a letter with former lawmakers Emily Lau and Cyd Ho – who are Justices of Peace – to Kitty Choi, the director of administration under the chief secretary.

They will demand a meeting with Secretary for Security John Lee and Commissioner of Correctional Services Yau Chi-chiu, to discuss improving the Justice of Peace visit system.

In response to the new report, the Correctional Services Department said officers cannot use force unnecessarily. It said it will not tolerate any violation of the rules and welcomes the interviewees to provide evidence for investigation.

Kris Cheng

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.