Foreign prisoners serving time in Hong Kong may be able to chat to relatives back home through a video satellite link, the Correctional Services Department said yesterday. The development comes after several convicted foreigners had their terms cut as a result of the extra hardships they face in jail because they are not locals. The chief officer of Pik Uk Correctional Institution, Chan Chiu-nam, said: 'Foreign prisoners may have a chance to talk with relatives in their hometown through a video link one day.' But he said the idea was still being studied as it would be expensive. Mr Chan said video-conferencing facilities had been introduced at the Mongkok Counselling Centre since April and officers had thought of applying similar services to foreign inmates. It enables pregnant, elderly and disabled relatives of inmates in Shek Pik and Ma Po Ping prisons and institutions on Hei Ling Chau to stay in contact. By last month, 107 inmates had used the service. Mr Chan said more video conferencing kits would be installed in other institutions. The kits cost about $435,000 each and maintenance costs were $824 a month. The institution's officer (after care) Chang Chi-choi said that in carrying out the study, they had to consider resources available in countries and the number of serving inmates from those places. He said poor countries without adequate resources might not be able to afford such facilities. At present, there are 954 foreigners serving terms in SAR prisons. The largest group is Vietnamese (431), followed by Pakistanis (99), Filipinos (87) and Thais (70). The remaining group of 267 are classified as 'others'. The video-link plan comes after six foreigners were shown leniency when being sentenced. Last week, four Colombian robbers won three-month reductions in their sentences for their part in snatching a briefcase of diamonds worth $15.5 million from an Israeli trader. The Court of Appeal ruled on August 21 that Swiss national Felix Rohrer, 27, should have three months taken off his term for fraud because of language and diet difficulties. The next day, a Malaysian drug trafficker had six months sliced off his 16-year sentence, partly because of his status as a foreigner. Under the Transfer of Sentenced Persons agreements, foreign prisoners can apply to serve their sentence in their own countries. Hong Kong has signed the agreement with the United Kingdom, United States, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the Philippines, Italy and Portugal. Similar agreements with other countries are being negotiated.