Cheuk said the college had been sponsored by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Education Fund for Rehabilitation for its establishment. Hong Kong Metropolitan University was providing teachers and materials for the students.
Bernard Chan, who represented the Jockey Club at the ceremony, revealed that the organisation’s charity arm had poured HK$43 million (US$5.5 million) into the fund for inmates’ education, which would cover fees for all Ethics College students, as well as remote learning for accredited tertiary programmes and e-learning facilities for other inmates.
The 75 inmates will complete a one-year programme for an applied education diploma.
Besides mandatory subjects of Chinese, English, maths, life planning and interpersonal relations, and communications, students can choose either interior design, advertising or public relations and marketing as an elective.
Students will take lessons each lasting at least two hours during the day and can use the Pak Sha Wan institution’s library for revision or projects after class.
The time spent in lessons would be counted as work hours, qualifying them for a salary in prison.
Those who have enrolled in the college will live in a separate dormitory from other inmates in the Pak Sha Wan institution and wear a grey blazer and blue shirt.
They will only interact with fellow students due to a different timetable from working inmates.
They will need to pass exams at the end of their studies to qualify for the diploma.
“The applied education diploma has its requirements. Students will need to be local residents above the age of 21,” said Siu Pui-fan, a principal in the department’s education unit.
Inmates who wish to enrol will need to pass two interviews, firstly in their institution and then with a central selection board. Siu said the department would assess candidates’ performance in jail, their learning needs and their motivation to learn.
She added that the programme had attracted “substantial interest” among inmates, but did not reveal how many had applied.
Siu said that while the department had not screened applicants through their crimes, those serving sentences of between one and six years were preferred as they could plan for their future sooner.
Among the first batch of students is 24-year-old Kan*, who is serving a jail term of three years and nine months for a rioting offence.
“I have scarcely seen my family since I’ve started my sentence, and I thought if I don’t make a change now, no one will be responsible for me. I need to be responsible for my own future,” he said.
Kan, who had only completed Form Three in school, resumed his studies last year under an initiative launched by the department targeting young people who were jailed for offences related to the 2019 anti-government protests.
A tutor in the initiative had encouraged him to apply to the college.
Kan has picked interior design as his elective subject and hopes to earn a higher diploma in the profession once he leaves jail.
Tiger*, an inmate in his early 30s, was motivated by his family to apply for the college, having abandoned any education after primary school.
Jailed for more than 12 years for drug trafficking in 2017, Tiger said in a speech at the ceremony that before Thursday he had only ever seen his five-year-old son through a thick glass panel during prison visits.
“My son, you will graduate from kindergarten next year, I will work hard and graduate with you,” Tiger said.
“I will find a stable job to bring you up and be with you, so you don’t have to live under somebody else’s roof.”
Principal Siu said the department would run Ethics College for a few years before deciding whether to expand the number of students.
*Name changed at interviewee’s request.