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Occupy Central

Next on the agenda for jailed Occupy trio out on bail – Hong Kong prison reforms

Stint behind bars for Alex Chow inspires him to discuss inmate welfare with Joshua Wong and Nathan Law in first reunion lunch out of jail

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 November, 2017, 10:45pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 November, 2017, 11:03am

Prison is no doubt an ordeal for most, but for those with social activism in their blood, being behind bars may become an opportunity to press for change.

This has happened for jailed Occupy student leaders Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang, who are now bent on improving prison conditions for inmates.

The trio were jailed in August over an unlawful assembly in the lead-up to the 2014 civil disobedience movement for greater democracy. They were recently granted bail to appeal.

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Chow pledged to brainstorm ideas at his first lunch out of prison on Tuesday. He said that while “sipping tea and munching on buns”, he planned to discuss prisoners’ affairs with Wong and Law, who were granted bail two weeks ago. They will aim for institutional reforms.

“There are so many issues,” Chow told reporters outside the Court of Final Appeal, just before heading for his meal.

“[Joshua, Nathan] and I will compile them ... and we will cooperate with legislators, such as Shiu Ka-chun and Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, to submit some proposals regarding the reform,” he said.

Baby-faced Wong echoed Chow’s words, saying he looked forward to hearing Chow and Law share their prison experience.

Chow is the last of the three to be granted bail, as the Court of Final Appeal on Tuesday decided it would listen to the trio’s appeal, scheduled for January 16.

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The three were convicted last year of either taking part or inciting others to take part in an illegal assembly on September 26, 2014, two days before the 2014 Occupy movement shifted into full gear.

They led a group in storming the forecourt of the government office that night.

They were originally given a suspended sentence or community service, but were jailed by the Court of Appeal on August 17 this year, after prosecutors sought harsher punishment.

After spending almost three months at Pik Uk Prison, Chow said he managed to push for change on one matter. He said the facility was one of the few prisons which still required inmates to squat down for a daily headcount. Chow had felt that this was unnecessary as they could still be counted while standing.

“After this situation was raised to [them], they have eliminated this policy,” he said.

Asked about the first thing he intended to do after being released from prison, he said: “I want to go yum cha.”

Chow said prisoners constantly thought of the first thing they would do, no matter how mundane, upon being free.

Recalling how he watched on television the release of Wong and Law on October 24 after they were granted bail, Chow said: “They walked out in such a carefree manner.” He added that he was grateful to be able to reunite with them.

Looking back on his short stint behind bars, Chow said his activist spirit caused some differences in views between himself and prison officers, but ultimately he was thankful for their efforts in looking after him.