Hong Kong prisons authority will seek ban on those under supervision orders from leaving city, correctional services chief says

Chung, formerly a convenor of pro-independence group Studentlocalism, announced on social media in December that he had sought political asylum in Britain. The 22-year-old activist was under a one-year post-release supervision arrangement by the Correctional Services Department back then.

On the day the activist announced his plan, the department issued a recall order requiring Chung to return to the city.

Under the Post-Release Supervision of Prisoners Ordinance, discharged young offenders are subject to a statutory period of observation of one year.

In his social media post, Chung said he had persuaded correctional officers to allow him to fly to Okinawa, Japan, for “emotional adjustment”. On arrival in Japan, Chung then bought a ticket to the United Kingdom as well as sought advice from individuals and groups based there.

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Commissioner Wong shared about Chung’s case at an annual round-up of the department’s work, where he also revealed that 3,096 people were remanded in the city on average per day last year – the highest figure since 2000.

This represented a sustained rise in the number of people remanded in the city, as last year’s figures was a 16 per cent rise from 2022’s record of 2,666, which was the previous record high in more than a decade.

The number of inmate admissions from national security offences and charges arising from the anti-government protests in 2019, such as rioting and unlawful assembly, had risen by 15 per cent between 2022 and last year to 950.

Prisoners in custody for the same category of charges last year had also increased last year to 776, showing a 49 per cent surge from 522 people by the end of 2022.

Hong Kong’s new prison admissions overall stood at 17,268 last year, showing a 30 per cent rise from 13,246 in 2022.

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Wong also shared about the state of manpower in the department.

Despite relaxing hiring requirements, Wong said the department still had 11 per cent of its disciplinary staff count unfilled, amounting to 713 spots.

The department recruited 46 officers and 290 assistant officers last year. New hires in September were the first batch that passed an adjusted physical fitness test while those from November could take the new Chinese and English test for application to the grade two assistant officer role.

For the fitness test, it replaced sit-ups with an isometric strength test for candidates’ arm, shoulder, leg and lower back strength last September, while cutting down a shuttle run test from 10 runs of nine metres to four runs of 10 metres.

It had also introduced a new Chinese and English test for candidates who had failed to obtain a level two result in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education in the recruitment process for the assistant officer post.

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According to the commissioner, 80 applicants had taken the new language tests in December with a 47 per cent pass rate for the Chinese test and a 5 per cent pass rate for the English test.

Addressing allegations concerning severe sexual assault on inmates in Pik Uk Correctional Institution last month, the commissioner said top officers in the department held meetings with frontline staff to discuss integrity and conduct.

“As a department head, all colleagues are the department’s assets … I will deal with [staff misconduct] to ensure the bad apples do not affect others. This is among our most important work,” Wong pledged.

Wong added that the department had referred three cases of physical abuse among inmates to the police for investigation between 2019 to 2023.

The department launched robotic dog patrols and a rehabilitation dog service for inmates. Photo: Elson Li

The department also introduced new measures to improve the environment for inmates and staff.

Women’s prison Lo Wu Correctional Institution launched a rehabilitation dog service last month, allowing inmates to help train two labradors named Echo and Gina as part of therapy to improve their emotional and mental well-being.

Shek Pik Prison had also been testing a robotic dog in border patrols since last month, where a HK$1.7 million (US$217,370) four-legged robot equipped with a thermal camera would patrol prison grounds on preset routes.


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