Democracy activists and lawmakers have submitted official complaints to the Correctional Services Department and called for improvements to the correctional system.

Bailed activists Joshua Wong, Nathan Law, and Alex Chow were joined by lawmakers Shiu Ka-chun and Fernando Cheung and the Juvenile Prisoners Human Rights Concern Group at a rally outside the department’s headquarters on Tuesday. They protested the alleged physical and psychological abuse of inmates and requested to meet with the head of the department to express their concerns.

The three activists were given jail sentences of six to eight months in August for their participation in the Civic Square clashes which led to the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement. They were recently released on bail pending their appeals.

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Alex Chow (center) holds a sign saying: “Review prison system; do not delay reform.”

In his complaint, Joshua Wong specifically targeted an alleged practice at the Tung Tau Correctional Institution where he and the other prisoners were forced to strip, squat naked on the floor and answer staff members’ questions. He said it was an unnecessary form of psychological abuse that served only to strip prisoners of their dignity.

“Even those in prison have basic human rights. Why is it that in prison, when answering staff members’ questions, we have to take off all our clothes and let staff members use a commanding, forceful tone, and force every person… to crouch on the floor and look up – like a dog – to answer their master’s questions?”

Wong added that he was also pressured by five different staff members to retract complaints that he had made while in juvenile detention.

See also: Hong Kong inmates keep silent over prison staff misconduct for fear of retaliation, NGO finds

Alex Chow said that they did not intend to throw the entire prison system into doubt, but wanted to make suggestions to improve the system.

He said he met some officials who were very good people during his time in Pik Uk prison, but that the humanity of prison officials is often “obscured” and they often used swear words to yell at prisoners.

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Photo: Nathan Law, via Facebook.

See also: Rough justice: Former juvenile offenders speak of abuse behind bars, and a broken complaints system

Disqualified lawmaker Nathan Law joked that he may have set a record after he toured a prison as a lawmaker, only to then be sent to jail about two months later. He said that the latter was a completely different experience, and that he hopes prisons will improve education and other conditions so that they can serve their “correctional” purpose.

The plight of Hong Kong inmates has fallen under scrutiny this year with the jailings of prominent political figures. Allegations of abuse also came to light when HK01 published interviews with 50 young former inmates who claimed to have suffered abuses in August. Shiu Ka-chun also spoke to local media on behalf of over ten young offenders who said they were beaten by prison officials in September.

In June, former prisoners at Sai Kung’s Pik Uk correctional Institution said that they were forced to lick urine, pour boiling porridge over their heads and undergo up to seven hours of physical exercise per day.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.