HK Ex-District Councillor Rebukes Former Commissioner’s Accusations as Irresponsible Slander

HK Ex-District Councillor Rebukes Former Commissioner’s Accusations as Irresponsible Slander
Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre, a maximum security prison in Hong Kong, on June 17, 2019. (Sung Pi-lung/The Epoch Times

More than 10,000 people were arrested during the 2019 anti-extradition movement in Hong Kong. Of those, about 3,000 were indicted and approximately 700 are serving time in correctional institutions for “rioting.”

Recently, Danny Woo Ying-ming, Commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption of Hong Kong (ICAC), and former Commissioner of Correctional Services (CS), criticized some district councillors for inciting the inmates to continue their protests during their official prison visits.

Former Yau Tsim Mong district councillor Ben Lam Siu-pan said during an interview with The Epoch Times that Woo’s accusation was irresponsible, slanderous, and an attempt to deprive the district councillors of their right to apply for official prison visits.

In an exclusive interview with the pro-CCP YouTube channel “Ko Chi-sum Oil Pipe,” Danny Woo Ying-ming used the analogy of “triad members coaxing young people to commit crimes,” to criticize some people for encouraging young people to participate in the 2019 “riots.” He also said that in 2020, a large number of district councillors “continued to incite” and “called for continued protests” during their visits with the incarcerated protesters. Hence, the CS Department started to require district councillors to provide the reasons for their official visits and limit visits to only inmates residing in the districts they serve.

Ben Lam Siu-pan: Irresponsible Slander

Ben Lam Siu-pan recalled in an interview with The Epoch Times that in his early days of serving as a district councillor in 2020, he could still use his status as a district councillor to apply in writing to the CS Department for an “official visit.” It was quite different from the arrangement of visits by relatives and friends. After entering the prison, district councillors can use an “express lane” and can meet the inmates in a special room with air-conditioning, no glass partition, and no need to use a telephone handset to communicate. Visit time was also not limited, and there was “only one CS staff standing outside the room, and there might not be audio monitoring in the room, because sometimes these rooms were used by the lawyers and the inmates.”

Lam pointed out that starting from about mid-2020, the CS Department, like the Home Affairs Department, began to tighten how they treated district councillors. First, district councillors could no longer apply for “official visits.” There was one case in which the CS Department replied that the person in custody did not live in his constituency, so his application to visit was denied. “But when I said I am sure that person in custody lived in my constituency, the excuse changed and the guard was not sure about the correct residential address of the person in custody, or rejected my application on the grounds that the pandemic restrictions did not allow such visits, thus depriving district councillors the right to apply for official visits.”

By late 2020, district councillors could only visit prisoners as a “friend,” and they must line up for one to two hours for a 15- or 30-minute visit, depending on whether the inmate was remanded or sentenced.

Regarding Woo’s criticism of some district councillors inciting the inmates to continue to protest, Lam said that it was irresponsible slandering and was surprised that Woo made such a serious accusation in the absence of evidence. “If there are indeed district councillors who instigated the inmates to continue to fight while visiting the prison, why haven’t the police done something about it in the past two years? Does Woo’s accusation fall within the scope of the freedom of speech protected by the Basic Law?”

As for Woo’s criticism of the 2017 Hong Kong film “With Prisoners” for discrediting and undermining the integrity of the Correctional Services Department, Lam, who is also a film critic, responded that he had watched the film. He found  the film well-documented, with its sources of information from former inmates and former instructors. From such trustworthy sources he believes that the film reflects reality and speaks for the human rights of juvenile offenders.

Lam also believes that Woo’s statement is unconvincing. There is almost no mechanism to check the power of prison staff. He suggested that prisons should install more CCTV cameras to eliminate “dead spots;” and at the same time, allow Justices of the Peace (JPs) the right to watch CCTV recordings to prevent abuse by prison staff.

Wong On-yin: Violation of Privacy Rights

Wong On-yin, a current affairs commentator who worked for the ICAC in the early 1980s, said on his YouTube channel that Woo made such statements without evidence and behaves like a CCP “smear commissioner.” He also questioned whether the CS Department had the right to “eavesdrop” on the conversations of inmates, relatives, and friends, and whether doing so constitutes violation of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance and relevant international human rights standards.

On the other hand, Secretary for Security Chris Tang Ping-keung recently revealed in an exclusive interview with the pro-CCP media “TVB” programme “On the Record” that he does not agree with Legislative Council member Rev. Canon Peter Douglas Koon’s earlier proposal to cancel the criminal records of those imprisoned for anti-amendment incidents. He said in order to maintain the normal running of society, those who committed serious crimes must have their records retained.