‘Mass indiscipline’ at Stanley Prison as 138 inmates stage hunger strike

Elite anti-riot guards called in to deal with protest in dining hall

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 January, 2017, 10:46am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 January, 2017, 2:07pm

Heavily armed anti-riot prison guards ended a hunger strike attempt by more than 130 inmates at one of Hong Kong’s highest security prisons as they occupied a dining hall to protest disciplinary actions against three fellow prisoners.

The Correctional Services Department said 138 male inmates from Stanley Prison’s leather products (shoe-making) workshop and carpentry workshop staged a hunger strike and refused to leave the dining hall at 6.30pm on Thursday.

They demanded the institutional management rescind any disciplinary action against three prisoners, who had been placed on disciplinary report on Thursday for unauthorised laundering of inmates’ uniforms.

The sanctions for the trio came as the prison undertook a series of operations against illicit activities, including disciplinary offences such as the unauthorised laundering of prisoners’ uniforms, in recent months.

After an assessment, the department deployed reinforcements to the 80-year-old prison on Tung Tau Wan Road, which could accommodate up to 1,500 convicts.

The department’s elite regional response team, which was set up in September and is regarded as an equivalent to the elite police Special Duties Unit, the “Flying Tiger Squad”, was called in, along with support teams and the dog unit.

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A department spokesman said that after a warning, all the prisoners left the dining hall in batches in an “orderly” fashion, and correctional officers completed the lock-up procedure at 9.15pm on Thursday.

Two prisoners, who were said to have incited fellow inmates to engage in “mass indiscipline”, were isolated for investigation.

The spokesman said: “The present atmosphere at Stanley Prison is stable. The department will continue to closely monitor the developments.”

The department said it spared no effort in combating illicit activities of all kinds in its institutions.

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A hunger strike was also staged on the evening of August 14 last year by more than a hundred asylum seekers, who were detained at Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre. They organised a sit-in protest in a resting room and demanded that the department issue them recognisance forms so they could be freed.

A couple of them started pushing furniture, prompting officers to use pepper spray to suppress the chaos. The strike lasted 24 hours and all asylum seekers were sent back to their detention cells.

Riots in the city’s prisons are rare. The most notorious disturbance in Stanley Prison, home to a handful of the city’s most notorious criminals, occurred in April 1973, when prisoners held three officers captive and used their keys to free about 400 inmates.

Anti-riot officers from the department and police were deployed, and tear gas was used.

The hostages were finally freed, and all prisoners returned to the cells after their demands for better welfare were heard. The riot later led to a major reform of the city’s prison system.