Flaw seen in WTO protester jail plans

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 July, 2005, 12:00am

The government plans to hold protesters arrested during the December WTO ministerial conference at Victoria Prison, but Correctional Services Department sources say the proposal may run into trouble.

Victoria Prison was suggested because of its proximity to the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai where the meeting will be held. But the plan is in doubt because of difficulties in moving out inmates in time.

Correctional Services Department sources said they were also expecting opposition from residents near the prison.

Inmates are supposed to be moved to a new wing at the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre before the conference, as part of redevelopment plans for Victoria Prison.

But delays to the Lai Chi Kok extension work have raised concerns that may not happen.

Victoria Prison may not be able to hold all the WTO detainees, as the 438-capacity prison can hold only between 800 and 900 inmates even when stretched beyond capacity.

But the Correctional Services Department sources are confident the system can cope with the expected influx of detainees since other prison facilities will be available. Detainees could also be deported from Hong Kong, they said.

The department is already making plans for an influx of potentially violent detainees, the sources added. More than 100 officers trained in handling riots would be deployed to take the protesters to Victoria Prison and oversee them in custody. The officers are part of an emergency response team set up after the riot at the Hei Ling Chau drug rehabilitation centre in 2000.

Department sources said that they were also making contingency plans for extreme acts, such as hunger strikes or suicide attempts by the protesters when they were being held in custody.

Prison officers will receive additional training ahead of the conference, and the department will only deploy equipment such as pepper sprays and protective armour should the situation warrant it.

The police said in February that they had been stocking up on rubber bullets and sandbags to deal with any outbreak of violence during December's conference.

The Correctional Services Department sources said challenges in other areas included arranging lawyers to get access to arrested protesters and sending them out of Hong Kong when necessary. Translators would also have to be found.



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