More than 1,300 people in Hong Kong have so far been sent to prison or other types of correctional institution after they were convicted of offences linked to the 2019 extradition bill protests, the city’s security chief has revealed.
The Correctional Services Department (CSD) has so far admitted 1,315 people, of whom 345 were aged 21 or under, after they were sentenced for their involvement in “black-clad violence cases,” Secretary for Security Chris Tang told the Legislative Council on Wednesday.
The figures were included in the minister’s reply to questions from lawmaker Chan Pui-leung on young or minor protesters in custody and their participation in “de-radicalisation” rehabilitation programmes.
As of the end of October, a total of 677 people in custody had taken part in the Project PATH programme launched in November last year to help “rebuild positive values,” Tang said. The figure included 474 convicted of protest-related offences.
The programme focuses on Chinese history to enhance a sense of national identity, Tang said, as well as moral and civic education. The CSD also offered psychological counselling and life planning opportunities.
The project saw a “satisfactory outcome,” Tang said, citing observations by CSD officers. There was no record of a subsequent conviction for participants after they were released.
“[P]ositive responses were received with participants actively joining the programme… with them feeling [and] showing deep remorse towards their past misdeeds,” the minister said.
In October, the Security Bureau revealed that police had arrested a total of 10,279 people in connection with the months-long unrest as of the end of August this year. Among them, almost 3,000 people including 517 minors had so far been prosecuted.
The bureau said 2,044 defendants had completed judicial proceedings, with 80 per cent of them – or 1,631 individuals – “bearing legal consequences,” including prison sentences, community service orders, probation and binding-over orders.
According to the CSD’s 2020 Annual Review, the offences committed by those sentenced to a correctional facility over the protests included rioting, unlawful assembly and possession of offensive weapons.
E-learning and vocational training
Lawmaker Chan cited reports that young people in custody faced “relatively more limitations” when they studied for the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education, including a lack of internet access.
In response, Tang said the CSD has been providing half-way education for young people in custody. While prisoners or detainees were not allowed to conduct online searches directly due to security concerns, e-learning resources corners had been available since 2015 for them to access materials for distance learning courses.
The department is also set to launch an online learning platform for those in custody, under which they would be given a tablet to access learning materials through the institution’s intranet, the security chief said.
Tang was asked if the authorities would adjust the vocational training programmes offered in CSD facilities after some saw them as having “relatively less recognition.”
He said the 13 training courses, which cover business practices, image design, beauty care, coffee shop operation and other industries, would be reviewed based on factors such as the background of the person in custody and the demands of the local employment market.
“[The] CSD will continue to actively promote diversified and appropriate services in facilitating the rehabilitation of PICs [persons in custody] and their reintegration into society,” Tang said.
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