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Joshua Wong

Occupy leader Joshua Wong seeks HK$16,000 in damages for being forced to ‘squat naked’ in Hong Kong jail

Democracy activist says he wants to prevent similarly ‘undignified’ and ‘unreasonable’ incidents happening in future

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 July, 2018, 2:40pm
UPDATED : Monday, 09 July, 2018, 10:36pm

Occupy icon Joshua Wong Chi-fung demanded HK$16,000 (US$2,040) in damages from Hong Kong’s Department of Justice on Monday for being forced to “squat naked” at a correctional institution last year when he was jailed over the mass protests.

The activist filed the claim despite the Correctional Services Department recently dismissing a related complaint he had lodged.

Speaking outside the West Kowloon Law Courts Building on Monday, Wong said the case with the Small Claims Tribunal, if successful, could prevent similarly “undignified” and “unreasonable” incidents from happening in the future.

“Why was I not allowed to wear clothes while being questioned?” he asked. “Why did I have to answer their questions while squatting?”

Wong alleged he was questioned for about three minutes while naked, after a strip-search at Tung Tau Correctional Institution last October.

Alongside democracy activists Alex Chow Yong-kang and Nathan Law Kwun-chung, Wong was convicted in 2016 over his role in the Occupy protests of 2014.

Why was I not allowed to wear clothes while being questioned?
Joshua Wong Chi-fung, activist

The three were originally given non-custodial sentences. But after a review sought by the government, an appeal court found the terms inadequate and sentenced them to jail in August last year.

Wong was imprisoned for six months, while Chow and Law were jailed for seven and eight months.

Wong was released on bail pending appeal in October last year, and filed a formal complaint against the department a month later.

“The naked questioning was an assault and the act of giving such a demand is a misfeasance in public office,” the activist wrote in his claim form submitted on Monday.

Wong said that during the questioning he was asked about his family and affiliation with triads.

According to the form, Wong is seeking HK$8,000 in damages for trespass to the person, and another HK$8,000 for misfeasance in public office.

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Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah was named as a defendant.

As for how he had arrived at the amounts, Wong said he had referenced past cases.

But he refused to speculate on his chances of winning the claim, saying the process would help him obtain statements from relevant correctional officers and give him a chance to raise questions involving the department in court.

His request that the department’s complaints committee show him statements made by officers had yet to yield results, he added.

In a letter dated June 27, a committee secretary told Wong his accusations were unfounded because “the officer involved denied it and [the accusation] was not supported by the relevant officers, inmates and information”.

Wong has since filed an appeal against the dismissal of his complaint.

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In the future, Wong said, an independent council to handle complaints against the department should be set up.

“Members of the complaints committee are appointed by the commissioner of the Correctional Services Department, and it’s a case of ‘investigating your own kind’,” he said.

Wong’s claim for HK$16,000 is due to be heard by the tribunal on August 8.