Hong Kong government officials walked out of a district council meeting on Monday as members began discussing a hunger strike being staged at a local immigration detention centre in protest of alleged abuses.

Tuen Mun District Council scheduled a discussion on Monday about the treatment of detainees at Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre (CIC) within the district. Since June 29, a group of detainees have fasted to protest against what they describe as physical, mental and verbal abuse along with poor hygiene.

Tuen Mun District Council. Photo: Sam Cheung.

At its peak, 28 detainees had joined the hunger strike, according to the CIC Detainees’ Rights Concern group on Facebook. As of Tuesday – the 100th day of the protest – seven detainees were still carrying on, it said, adding they were drinking only milk tea.

A group of district councillors and concern group members are scheduled to protest outside the detention centre on Tuesday evening to show support.

The Immigration Department in a statement in late August denied the mistreatment allegations but acknowledged that several detainees were not taking meals. It rejected “groundless and unfair accusations,” adding that detainees were treated fairly and properly.

Twenty-seven Tuen Mun district councillors jointly submitted a document at Monday’s meeting to address the allegations, in hopes of summoning Immigration Department officers to respond.

Castle Bay Peak Immigration Centre. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

They asked the department to probe the allegations and disclose the investigation results. Councillors also urged the department to evaluate whether the detention centre violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Tuen Mun District Officer Aubrey Fung, a civil servant, however declared the item on Monday’s agenda to be incompatible with the role and functions of the council. No immigration department members attended the meeting and all government officials left the venue.

District councils are the lowest tier of government. But according to Article 61 of the District Councils Ordinance, they may advise the government on matters affecting the well-being of the people in the locality.

Since the pro-democracy camp won a landslide victory in last year’s district council elections, friction between the government and the councils has become increasingly common. Government officials often walk out of meetings, declaring that certain items on the agenda are incompatible with the council’s roles and functions.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

Last month, Southern District council chair Lo Kin-hei with the Democratic Party filed a legal challenge against the Home Affairs Department officer Priscilla Yip. Lo accused Yip – who was appointed as the council secretary – for refusing to perform her administrative duties such as circulating papers, keeping minutes and making an audio recording at a meeting.

During the meeting one councillor had requested information about the police force, an issue deemed to be outside the council’s responsibility.

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Rachel Wong

Rachel Wong previously worked as a documentary producer and academic researcher. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and European Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She has contributed to A City Made by People and The Funambulist, and has an interest in cultural journalism and gender issues.