Hong Kong to consider barring early-release prisoners from leaving city, corrections chief says

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Hong Kong to consider barring early-release prisoners from leaving city, corrections chief says
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Hong Kong authorities are considering amending the law to bar prisoners who have been granted early release from leaving the city, the corrections chief has said.

Shek Pik Prison. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Commissioner of Correctional Services Wong Kwok-hing on Thursday said the prison service had been studying a change to the Post-Release Supervision of Prisoners Ordinance, which provides for supervised early release based on “good conduct” in jail.

His comments came after pro-independence activist Tony Chung, who had been granted an early release from his national security jail term, left the city for the UK in December. Authorities have ordered the activist to return to prison, citing a breach of his post-prison supervision order.

“Under the current legislation, rehabilitated persons under supervision only have to inform our supervising officers should they wish to leave Hong Kong,” Wong told reporters in Cantonese. “We have no right to bar them from travelling, therefore we are studying how to improve [the legislation].”

A board made up of government-appointed experts and representatives from the prison service and the police can order any prisoner to be released under supervision, after they have served no less than two thirds of his sentence.

The board sets conditions of the supervision order on a case-by-case basis. Breaching the order could lead to the person being recalled to jail.

Wong did not give further details regarding the proposed amendment.

Article 23

Wong also expressed support for the new homegrown security law mandated under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.

Authorities last month unveiled a consultation paper on the planned legislation covering five areas: treason, insurrection, theft of state secrets and espionage, sabotage, and external interference.

(From left to right) Secretary for Justice Paul Lam, Secretary for Security Chris Tang and Chief Executive John Lee announce the opening of the public consultation period for Hong Kong's homegrown security law, Article 23, on January 30, 2024. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.
From left: Secretary for Justice Paul Lam, Secretary for Security Chris Tang and Chief Executive John Lee announce the opening of the public consultation period for Hong Kong’s homegrown security law, Article 23, on January 30, 2024. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

It stands apart from the national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020, which criminalises secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces.

See also: Article 23 then and now – What changed between 2002 and 2024

“Our frontline officers are constantly facing the threats and risks to national security. To effectively prevent, curb, and punish acts endangering national security, Hong Kong must swiftly complete the legislative exercise for Article 23,” the corrections chief said.

“Should the number of prison inmates increase after the legislation of Article 23, the correctional services will allocate resources in response,” he added.

‘Bad cells’

Separately, Wong said he “felt bad” about an earlier incident in which four prisoners and a prison guard were remanded in custody for allegedly wounding an inmate with intent.

The five are accused of seriously injuring an 18-year-old man at Pik Uk Correctional Institution in Sai Kung in December, causing him to suffer an anal fissure and rectal perforation, according to local media. They were all denied bail last month and will next appear in court in April.

Pik Uk Correctional Institution
Pik Uk Correctional Institution. File photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Wong drew a comparison between the incident and cancer. “It’s like being diagnosed with cancer. Every officer is our asset, and I am not happy that anything happens to our cells,” he said.

“But I have to ensure that the bad cells would not influence others. This is a matter of honesty, integrity, and conduct.”

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