Convicted robber asks court for right to vote from inside prison

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 August, 2008, 12:00am

A convicted armed robber who threatened to blow up several banks in the mid-1990s wants the right to vote.

Simon Chan Kin-sum, 32, who is serving a 12-year jail sentence for another, unrelated robbery, is asking the Court of First Instance to overturn the city's ban on prisoner voting so he and other inmates can have their say in next month's Legislative Council election, according to a judicial review application.

In 1996, Chan stole about HK$200,000 from several banks by threatening to detonate a bomb if the tellers did not give him money.

He was sentenced to seven years in prison for the heists, which he said were a desperate attempt to raise funds so his pregnant fiancee did not have to become a prostitute to pay off her gambling debts.

He went back to Stanley prison in 2002 for another robbery and is expected to be released in 2010.

'After spending so many years in prison, [Chan] wishes to turn over a new leaf and reform himself,' his 27-page application, dated August 8, says. 'He considers that voting and participating in civic society is one step towards his reformation. He believes that prisoners should be allowed to vote and that it is arbitrary and unfair for all prisoners to be disenfranchised.'

Chan's bid to change the voting law comes after the government spurned his request to register as a voter, the application says. He says the Basic Law guarantees citizens 'the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs ... and the right to vote by universal and equal suffrage without unreasonable restrictions'.

Denying prisoners those rights amounts to illegal discrimination and hurts their ability to adjust to life outside prison, the application says.

Banning prisoner voting may be reasonable in some cases, but there must be a 'legitimate aim' behind general voting restrictions, the application says.

In 2004, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that a British law banning prisoner voting breached their rights. Some countries, including Canada, allow prisoner voting, while others ban the practice.