Pro-democracy lawmakers and formerly jailed activists have proposed reforms to protect the rights of prisoners. They also called on the government to establish an independent supervisory body to oversee the operations of the Correctional Services Department.

Six lawmakers visited the Lo Wu Correctional Institution on February 22 and submitted a proposal on prison reforms to Commissioner Lam Kwok-leung.

shiu ka chun
Shiu Ka-chun. Photo: In-Media.

At a press conference on Tuesday, social sector legislator Shiu Ka-chun said that, while he understood the need for security in prisons, human rights must not be ignored. “First of all, we propose that human rights and security are equally important, and the Correctional Services Department cannot use security reasons to override human rights.”

“Secondly, we hope that the Correctional Services Department will review whether it is meeting the minimum requirements for the treatment of prisoners… and thirdly we hope the department and lawmakers could have a regular mechanism for communication,” Shiu said.

“And finally, we believe that setting up a body supervising the correctional services is the best way to handle complaints,” he added.

ivan lam
Ivan Lam. Photo: In-Media.

Demosisto’s Ivan Lam – an activist who was jailed over the northeast New Territories land protests – said that there were few learning courses available in prison, and those that are available are of a low-skill, labour-intensive nature. He also said that the system did not encourage prisoners to change their habits or acquire new knowledge to assist them in turning over a new leaf.

Democracy activist Joshua Wong, who was jailed last year for his role in the Civic Square protests that led to the Umbrella Movement in 2014, questioned the effectiveness of the internal checks. He said that he has filed two complaints while serving his sentence, and although the official guidelines state that the results of the investigation will be released in six to ten weeks following the complaints, he has yet to receive a response since being released in October.

Wong previously claimed that he was forced to strip naked and asked to answer an officer’s questions while squatting on the floor in prison – claims that prison chief Lam Kwok-leung has denied.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.