Democracy activist Joshua Wong has told a Hong Kong court that he was treated “like a dog” during a prison interrogation, but corrections officers have disputed his account.

The Demosisto activist said that he was forced to answer questions while squatting naked, and that prison staff intentionally insulted him. Wong is suing the Secretary for Justice for HK$16,000. His case was heard at the Small Claims Tribunal on Thursday and Friday.

Joshua Wong
Joshua Wong shortly after his release from jail. File photo:

According to Wong, he was interrogated at Tung Tau Correctional Institution on October 16, 2017 after being transferred from Pik Uk Correctional Institution.

He was serving a six-month sentence for unlawful assembly at the time for his 2014 protest at the government’s Admiralty headquarters.

On Thursday, Wong told the court that a corrections officer questioned him for over five minutes while he was squatting naked. The officer also asked him questions which strayed from an official list, he added.

When Wong objected, he was told by the officer that they were “checking whether he knew how to use a squat toilet,” Wong said.

“Inmates are people too. They shouldn’t be treated like dogs, not allowed to even wear underpants, and told to look up to the officers,” Wong said, according to Apple Daily.

Tung Tau Correctional Institution
Tung Tau Correctional Institution. Photo: Googlemaps.

“It was a way for them to show their authority, to frighten inmates,” he added.

Wong had previously described the incident as the “most humiliating three minutes” of his jail stint, and has pushed for prison reform after his sentence ended.

Questions over political ties

However, corrections officers said they only conducted a routine strip search of Wong after his arrival at Tung Tau, and Wong was clothed during questioning afterwards.

On Friday, corrections officer Leung Tin-hang denied asking Wong to squat while answering questions, and said he never made the comment about squat toilets.

Leung told the court he only asked Wong the usual list of questions, but later admitted that he took special care to ask about Wong’s political ties.

“We asked a bit more information about his groups,” Leung said, according to local media reports.

Leung also claimed it was the first time that the low-security Tung Tau Correctional Institution had received an inmate like Wong.

Leung Tin-hang
Corrections officer Leung Tin-hang.

Leung said the information helped officers decide the cell and work arrangements for Wong, and would reduce the risk of conflict.

Leung added that he would not ask inmates about their political background during their work in the 1990s, but said he did do so now because of changed social norms.

Assistant officer Tai Kwong-yee said that typical searches would only last two to three minutes, and officers would not make a record of it unless contraband was found.

Tai, who was also present in the room during Wong’s search, disputed Wong’s version of events and denied having insulted him.

Holmes Chan

Holmes Chan

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.