Notorious Hong Kong gangster in legal battle over medical treatment he receives in prison
Yip Kai-foon, paralysed during a shoot-out with police in 1996, claims authorities have violated his rights by denying him traditional Chinese medicine
A paraplegic prisoner who was once Hong Kong’s most wanted man is seeking a judicial review over the Correctional Services Department’s refusal to provide him with access to traditional Chinese medicine treatment.
In a claim filed in the High Court earlier his week, Yip Kai-foon, who is serving a 36-year jail term in Stanley Prison, noted that Hospital Authority doctors treating him had indicated that Western medical treatment would not improve his condition.
Yip said that Dr Ko Wing-man, now secretary for food and health, had advocated that he receive complementary traditional Chinese medicine treatment alongside Western treatment. But over the years the department had turned down his requests for the additional care.
The decision was discriminatory of his protected status as a prisoner under the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, and the Bill of Rights Ordinance, Yip claimed in his submission.
“The right to receive medical treatment by a prisoner is a strong fundamental right.”
It is understood the prison authority was concerned about who would bear responsibility should any issues related to Chinese medicine treatment arise.
Yip, now in his mid-50s, carried out a string of notorious robberies in the early 1990s. He was shot in the back during a shoot-out with police in May 1996. He received life-saving surgery but is now confined to a wheelchair.
He was originally jailed for given 41 years but this was reduced to 36 years on appeal.
In February 2007, Ko and a number of medical specialists examined Yip and prescribed traditional Chinese medicine. But “disputes” about the treatment emerged between the medical practitioners and the prison authority.
The Correctional Services Department required the “exact terms” of an insurance policy against liability and medical arrangements had not been followed up since 2008.
Dr Zhang Shiping, a Chinese medical expert from Hong Kong Baptist University, said after examining Yip that all relevant Western medical treatments had been exhausted and that the abdominal pain the former gangster had complained of for years was a side effect of such treatment.
In a letter to his psychiatrist dated September 3 this year, Yip said he had lost nearly all of his teeth and that his memory and awareness had been dulled by heavy opiate use to relieve his pain.
He had become addicted and dependent on drugs, including morphine and methadone,
was unable to sleep and described himself as becoming “apprehensive”.
In reply to a Post inquiry, the department said it considered prisoners’ requests for medical treatment on a case-by-case basis and would not comment on individual cases.