776 People in Custody in Hong Kong for Anti-Extradition and National Security Law Charges, 50 Percent Increase Since 2022

by EditorL

On June 12, 2020, the anniversary of the “anti-extradition law” conflict in Hong Kong, a protester (L3) and a police officer (R1) argued during a clearance operation by the police in Mong Kok. (Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images)

The Hong Kong Correctional Services Department (CSD) held its annual press conference on Feb. 22, to review its work in 2023. Commissioner of Correctional Services, Wong Kwok-hing said that the average daily number of remands in 2023 reaches 3,096, a new high since 2000, an increase of 16 percent from 2,666 in 2022.

To ease the strain on Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre, the department has deployed part of the capacity of Stanley Prison and  Tung Tau Correctional Institution to admit adult male remands.

Mr. Wong revealed that the CSD is currently working with the Security Bureau to amend the regulations to prohibit persons subject to supervision orders from leaving Hong Kong. According to departmental figures, as of Dec. 31, 2023, 1,145 people were still under statutory supervision, a decrease of 4 percent from 1,193 people as of Dec. 31, 2022.

Anti-extradition and NSL Remands Increase 50 Percent

In 2023, there were 950 people admitted to correctional institutions for crimes related to the anti-extradition movement (including riots and unlawful assemblies), including seven in contravention of the Hong Kong National Security Law (NSL). It is 121 more than the 829 recorded in 2022, an increase of 15 percent.
As of Dec. 31, 2023, there were 776 people in custody for being involved in the anti-extradition movement and contravening the NSL, an increase of 49 percent from the 522 as of Dec. 31, 2022.

Disciplinary Charges in Prison Increase

In 2023, the number of disciplinary charges against persons in custody was 5,335. Counted against the penal population, there were 628 disciplinary cases per 1,000 persons in custody, an increase of 5 percent from 600 cases in 2022. The top three disciplinary charges are: offending good order and discipline, possession of any unauthorized article, and disobeying orders of CSD officers.

In 2023, a total of 3,011 persons in custody were subject to disciplinary charges, an increase of 371 persons (14 percent from the 2,640 in 2022). Among them, 494 people committed disciplinary offenses three or more times, involving a total of 2,294 disciplinary charges, accounting for 43 percent of all such cases.

Additionally, the Department seized drugs in 16 cases in 2023, an increase of approximately three times from six cases in 2022. Among them, five cases were found in the bodies of newly admitted inmates through the use of X-ray body scanners. Six cases were seized during searches of new inmates’ bodies or clothing,  and the remaining 5 cases were found in items sent to inmates through mail or visitors.

As for cases involving violent acts, there were 351 recorded in 2023, which mainly involved inmates fighting or assaulting others. This number represents a drop of 3 percent from the 361 cases in 2022. Among them, 22 cases of a more serious nature were referred to the Police for investigation, an increase of 38 percent from 16 cases in 2022. The number of CSD officers who were attacked or injured while stopping violent acts was 15, an increase of 25 percent from 2022.

A total of four cases of concerted acts of indiscipline by prisoners in correctional institutions were recorded in 2023, one less than in 2022, involving 51 people. The four cases of indiscipline included one case at Tung Tau Correctional Institution, where a group was accused of making unreasonable demands against the institution’s management measures. Others were one case of a group fight at Stanley Prison, and two cases of group attacks at Pik Uk Prison, and Pak Sha Wan Correctional Institution, respectively.

In 2023, a total of 30 self-harm cases by persons in custody were recorded in correctional institutions, a decrease of 29 percent from 42 cases in 2022. While CSD officers were able to stop most cases of self-harm in time, there was still one male inmate who died despite rescue efforts in 2023. The department has referred the case to the Police for investigation, and a coronial inquest will be conducted.

Correctional Staff Vacancy Rate at 11 Percent

The CSD hired 46 Correctional Officers and 290 Assistant Correctional Officers II in 2023. As of the end of 2023, there were 713 vacancies of disciplinary personnel within the Department, accounting for 11 percent of the overall headcount. To alleviate the pressure of manpower shortage, the Department continued to implement the Post-retirement Service Contract Scheme and re-hired a total of 249 retirees by the end of 2023.

The Department expects to recruit another 55 Correctional Officers in 2024 and will continue to recruit Correctional Assistant II to fill any shortfalls throughout the year.

In 2023, the Department relaxed the entry physical fitness test standards for those applying for the Correctional Officer and Assistant Correctional Officer II and put in place a bespoke “Chinese/English Written Test for Assistant Correctional Officer II” to provide candidates an alternative pathway to meet the language proficiency requirements.

In addition, the CSD also held its special recruitment drive at Huaqiao University in Xiamen and Jinan University in Guangzhou in November 2023, and arranged for Hong Kong students to take physical fitness tests on-site at the institutions. It said that the recruitment activities were “well received.”

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