Pro-democracy lawmakers have been blocked from visiting the San Uk Ling Holding Centre near the border with mainland China – a facility which has been used over the past month to detain arrested protesters.

On August 11, Hong Kong police brought 54 arrestees to the centre despite it being relatively far from urban areas. Thirty-one of those detained there were later hospitalised, and six were treated for fractured bones, raising concerns about potential abuse at the site.

San Uk Ling Holding Centre.
San Uk Ling Holding Centre.

Pro-democracy camp lawmakers requested a visit to the centre in late August, saying that it should open its doors to the media as well. In a reply to lawmakers last Friday, police dodged the question and said the rights of arrested protesters were fully respected.

“Regarding the claim that police used excessive force against arrested persons on August 11, and that police had unnecessary contact with female detainees, the police had clarified multiple times and rejected the unfounded allegations,” the letter read.

Convenor of the pro-democracy camp Claudia Mo told HKFP that police were “just their usual selves, pretending not much has happened.”

“They sure seem they have something to hide,” Mo said, but added that she did not want to speculate.

In their letter, a police spokesperson added that the force had already informed the public about the facilities, security, and privacy arrangements at San Uk Ling Holding Centre, and that those measures would be reviewed from time to time to ensure they were up to safety standards.

According to the SCMP, six justices of the peace were also barred from visiting the facility.

Last Friday, Now News reported that one person brought to San Uk Ling on August 11 had a dislocated left shoulder and bone fractures, which needed to be treated with metal plating and screws.

august 11 tsim sha tsui china extradition (4) (Copy)
File photo: May James/HKFP.

The man was arrested for unlawful assembly and was detained for five hours until he was taken to hospital where doctors gave him emergency surgery.

Chief Superintendent John Tse of the Police Public Relations Branch previously said that the duty officer at San Uk Ling did not have any record of anyone with serious bone fractures at the facility on August 11.

The holding centre was first used in the 1970s to detain illegal border-crossers and those with expired immigration permits. It also housed some Chinese activists who fled after the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, before they later left Hong Kong as part of “Operation Yellowbird.”

San Uk Ling Holding Centre
San Uk Ling Holding Centre.

Apple Daily reported that the detainee population at San Uk Ling had been shrinking, from around 8,000 people per year around 2,000 to approximately 400 people annually in 2016.

On August 5, some of the people arrested outside the Tin Shui Wai police station became the first batch of anti-extradition protesters to be held at San Uk Ling Holding Centre.

Senior Superintendent Kitty Chik told media that there were bilingual posters in the corridor outside detention cells that notify people of their rights. There were also meeting rooms for taking statements, and for arrestees to meet with lawyers and family.

John Tse
John Tse. Photo:

The surveillance cameras at San Uk Ling are pointed at the entrances and exits of the building, and there are no CCTVs in meeting rooms, bathrooms, detention cells or rooms where searches are conducted, Chik added.

Hong Kong has been rocked by protests over the now-withdrawn extradition bill, which would have allowed case-by-case fugitive transfers to China. Since June, large-scale peaceful protests have morphed into sometimes violent displays of dissent over Beijing’s encroachment, democracy, alleged police brutality, surveillance and other community grievances

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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.