A charitable donation to help convicted criminals learn foreign languages was criticised yesterday as diverting money from more worthy charities.
The Correctional Services Department said $3 million donated by the Hong Kong Jockey Club would be used to fund three language laboratories to teach prisoners Putonghua, English and Japanese.
But the Democratic Party's Fred Li Wah-ming, a member of the Legislative Council's welfare services and security panels, said prisoner education should be funded from government coffers.
Despite making up only a small part of annual Jockey Club subsidies, the money would be better used for causes lacking government help, Mr Li added.
'This is quite an unusual case as this scheme is the responsibility of the Education Department and Correctional Services - money should come from the Government's existing reserves,' he said.
Two language laboratories will be built in Stanley Prison while a multi-media laboratory will be constructed at Lai King Training Centre.
Poorly-educated inmates will be taught through audio-video equipment when the labs open by October.
A Correctional Services spokesman defended the scheme, saying language inabilities hindered inmates' chances of rehabilitation.
'Inmates who have obtained better education and language skills stand a better prospect of obtaining decent employment and chances of successful reintegration into society,' he said.
The department had established several training courses and facilities from donations, he added.