Like prison populations everywhere, the Hong Kong prison population is largely male. Women prisoners do, however, account for 12 percent of the prison population, a far higher proportion than found in most prison systems. It should also be noted that the women's prison population has grown at a tremendous rate in recent years, tripling since 1985.

The rise in the women's prison population, much more so than the men's prison population, is mainly due to the influx of mainland Chinese into the prison system. A significant proportion of these women are sex workers who have been prosecuted for immigration violations, usually working without an employment visa. Nearly half of the inmate population at Tai Tam Gap Correctional Institution, for example, is made up of mainland Chinese.153 The other significant factor in the growth of the women's prison population is the larger numbers of female drug addicts entering the penal system.

In the past two years, in order to cope with this rapid growth, the CSD opened both a medium security women's prison and drug addiction treatment center at Chi Ma Wan, converting a former Vietnamese detention camp. Prior to the inauguration of these facilities, the two existing women's facilities suffered from extremely acute overcrowding. Tai Lam Centre for Women, for example, once held 817 prisoners in space designed for 278.154 Still,even with the new facilities, three out of four women's institutions remain markedly overcrowded. Nonetheless, no new prisons for women are planned.

The Prison Rules specify that women prisoners must be supervised by women guards.155 In compliance with this rule-and with international standards156-very few male staff members work in the women's prisons, and those that do are accompanied by a female officer when they come into contact with prisoners.157 Notably, however, all four of Hong Kong's women institutions are run by male superintendents.158

Under the Prison Rules, incarcerated women have the right to keep their babies with them in prison until the babies reach nine months old, with the additional possibility of keeping them until age three.159 At Tai Lam Centre for Women, when the delegation visited, eight women inmates had infants with them. Mothers with babies stay in special nursery area. In addition, the facility has a very pleasant play room, full of toys, for children up to age six who are visiting their incarcerated mothers. At the mothers' request, the children are allowed half-day contact visits with them up to once a week.


Hong Kong has five institutions for juvenile offenders: four for males and one for females. In addition, some male juveniles are held in a separate section of the Hei Ling Chau Addiction Treatment Centre.160

The Hong Kong prison authorities espouse a strongly rehabilitative ethic in their treatment of juvenile prisoners. Reflecting this emphasis, facilities for juveniles include not just prisons but also "training centers" and, for males, a detention center. While employing different approaches, both of these types of facilities are meant to make juvenile inmates more apt to lead a law-abiding life upon release. This forward-looking focus is further reinforced by the mandatory post-release supervision that training center and detention center inmates must undergo. Nearly half of all juveniles sentenced to terms of imprisonment were placed in either training center or detention center programs.

The primary purpose of training centers is to equip juveniles with useful skills.161 To that goal, all training center inmates are given half-day education classes and half-day vocational training. At Pik Uk Correctional Institution and Tai Tam Gap, the Human Rights Watch/Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor delegation saw training center inmates receiving computer and language instruction.

Young males may also be sent to Sha Tsui Detention Centre, a medium security facility that administers a high intensity quasi-military program (descriptively named "short sharp shock"). Sha Tsui includes two separate groups, one consisting of detainees between fourteen and twenty years old, and the other of those between twenty-one and twenty-four. The stated purpose of the detention center program, an ambitious one, is "to instil in young male detainees a respect for the law, to create self-respect and an awareness of neglected capabilities in legitimate pursuits as well as an ability to live with other people in harmony."162

The primary means by which the detention center program seeks to achieve these ends is through strict discipline. Where prisoners at other Hong Kong correctional facilities are orderly, juveniles at Sha Tsui are rigidly controlled. In their cells, for example, almost all personal items are banned (no radios and no cassette players, for example), and the few personal items allowed-such as a toothbrush, a book, a comb-must be kept in precise places. Their shoes must be neatly placed in a specific spot under the bed, and their clothes must be precisely folded. Besides an emphasis on physical labor-grass cutting, maintenance and construction163-inmates are subject to a substantial amount of drilling. Staff at Sha Tsui, we were told, perceive themselves as instructors rather than guards, and the grounds of the facility are filled with inmates marching around shouting "left, right, left, right," and following these instructors' commands.

The CSD has impressive statistics to bolster its assertions that the detention center program's effectiveness is proved by its graduates' low recidivism rates.164 Academics have challenged these statistics, however, arguing that the methods used to calculate recidivism are faulty.165 Regardless of whether the program results in low recidivism,the lack of privacy, autonomy, and individual expression permitted detention center inmates is of concern to the Human Rights Watch/Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor delegation. On the other hand, we were impressed with the facility's emphasis on parent-inmate relations, reflected in, among other things, the superintendent's blanket approval of daily contact visits.

Foreign Prisoners

Besides local prisoners and mainland Chinese, the Hong Kong prisons house some 800 foreign prisoners from a variety of countries. Many of these prisoners have expressed concerns about the impending transfer of sovereignty.166 On July 1, 1997, all previously existing prisoner transfer treaties, by which prisoners may arrange to serve out their sentences in their home countries, will lapse.167 Some prisoners have reportedly been making hurried last-ditch efforts to effect a transfer before this deadline.168 In addition, the Hong Kong authorities are in the midst of negotiations with several countries to work out new transfer arrangements.

Foreign prisoners told the Human Rights Watch/Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor delegation of encountering frustrating language difficulties in their relations with CSD staff. One Nigerian prisoner also described racial discrimination and, in particular, guards' use of racial slurs.169

The Mentally Ill

Inmates with mental problems are housed at the Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre.170 In appearance, the facility is quite pleasant: its rooms and corridors are spacious, airy, and painted in soothing colors. It also possesses attractive gardens with flowers, fish, and birds, tended by some of the inmates. As the facility is located on the side of a hill, inmates held there enjoy rather dramatic views of the surrounding area.

The majority of the psychiatric patients held at Siu Lam are schizophrenic, but there are also inmates suffering from clinical depression, manias, and severe mental deficiencies.171 (Since no member of the Human Rights Watch/Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor delegation has medical training, we did not independently assess inmates' mental conditions.) Siu Lam's psychiatric team, who divide their time between Siu Lam and a local hospital, consists of two consulting psychiatrists, a senior registrar, an acting senior medical officer, and two medical officers.

Britain's Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) visited Siu Lam in late 1995 and apparently issued a report of its findings in 1996. The Human Rights Watch/Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor delegation was unable toobtain a copy of the report, but newspaper accounts stated that the RCP team expressed concerns over the "outdated" conditions and methods used at the facility.172 When questioned about the report, the superintendent at Siu Lam claimed not to have read it, though he added that "big improvements" had been made at the facility.173

The most obvious deficiency at Siu Lam is its severe shortage of qualified psychiatric nurses. Although according to a recent CSD report the facility should have ninety-seven nurses, it has almost precisely half that figure.174 Exacerbating this deficiency, many nurses, who also trained CSD security staff, are assigned non-nursing duties such as manning the guard towers.175 Nurses explained that, as a result, they had little time to provide the individualized treatment that patients needed-little time, in fact, even to open patients' files. In their view, many of the problems at Siu Lam arose from its hybrid status as both a prison and a mental institution.176 In general, the CSD's natural focus on security worked to the detriment of serving prisoners' mental health needs.

Besides Siu Lam, several other institutions have padded cells (called protected rooms) in which to temporarily place prisoners who have become violent or unmanageable. On inquiring about these rooms, the Human Rights Watch/Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor delegation found that corrections staff generally could not even remember when they were last used; in one facility, in fact, the room was used for storage. Mechanical restraints, similarly, appear to be rarely used within the prisons (although they are used in the outside transport of certain prisoners).

The Drug Addicted

As mentioned previously, a large proportion of the Hong Kong penal population consists of drug addicts, primarily heroin addicts. Because of the severity of these drug problems, the CSD operates two drug addition treatment centers for inmates sentenced by the courts to mandatory treatment: one at Hei Ling Chau, for men, and one at Chi Ma Wan, for women. The focus of these centers-as with juvenile detention centers-is on discipline and open-air exercise. Methadone treatment, although it is regularly employed outside of the penal context in Hong Kong, is not available in the centers.

Besides those held in treatment centers, many drug addicts are found in the regular prisons. In all of these facilities, obligatory urine tests (EMIT tests) are regularly administered to inmates. Indeed, in some facilities one-quarter of the inmate population is tested each month, without any requirement of either a particularized or generalized suspicion of drug use.177 Contact visits and trips to court give rise to additional drug tests. To be sure, the high incidence of drug use among the penal population and the adverse impact of drugs within the prisonenvironment may justify the intrusion on inmates' privacy interests represented by drug testing.178 Nonetheless, in the delegation's view, the CSD should consider adopting a more nuanced drug testing policy, which takes into account whether there is evidence of drug use either by a particular prisoner or in a particular institution.

153 Interview, Eric Law, superintendent, Tai Tam Gap Correctional Institution, March 18, 1997. 154 Interview, Poon Yin-wang, superintendent, Tai Lam Centre for Women, March 25, 1997. 155 Prison Rule 7. Moreover, Prison Rule 5A provides that "[n]o officer of the Correctional Services Department or other person employed in a prison shall enter a cell or dormitory allocated to a prisoner of the opposite sex unless accompanied by another officer or another person employed in the prison who is of the same sex as the prisoner." 156 Article 53(3) of the Standard Minimum Rules states that:

Women prisoners shall be attended and supervised only by women officers. This does not, however, preclude male members of the staff, particularly doctors and teachers, from carrying out their professional duties in institutions or parts of institutions set aside for women.

In the same vein, Article 53(2) of the Standard Minimum Rules bars male staff members from entering women's facilities or sections outside of the presence of a female officer.

157 For example, Tai Lam Centre for Women had only two male staff members in contact positions with women prisoners, the superintendent and a technical instructor; Tai Tam Gap Correctional Institution, which houses young women under twenty-one, had only a male superintendent and schoolmaster.

Even with such few male staff, incidents of abuse have occurred. In May 1989 a boiler room instructor at Tai Tam Gap sexually assaulted a female inmate. He was later convicted of two counts of indecent assault and was sentenced to thirty months' imprisonment. Letter from Au Siu-hau, CSD, to the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, April 7, 1997.

158 The Human Rights Watch/Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor delegation was told that in the past there had been two women superintendents. Interview, Poon Yin-wang, superintendent, Tai Lam Centre for Women, March 25, 1997. 159 Prison Rule 21. 160 As mentioned above, Category A girl prisoners, as well as other girl prisoners who are found to be unmanageable at the juvenile facility, are also held at Tai Lam Centre for Women, an adult women's facility. Accordingly, at the time of the delegation's visit, a seventeen-year-old girl charged with murder was being housed there. 161 Three facilities for male juveniles administer a training center program. Cape Collinson Correctional Institution is a training center for fourteen to seventeen year olds. Lai King Training Centre houses inmates between eighteen and twenty years old. Pik Uk Correctional Institution, a maximum security facility holding inmates between fourteen and twenty years old, operates as a remand center, a training center and a prison. The three groups are kept separate from each other.

The training center for female juveniles is located at Tai Tam Gap Correctional Institution.

162 Correctional Services Department, Hong Kong Correctional Services Annual Review 1995 (Hong Kong: Government Printer, 1996), p. 7. 163 Prior to a critical 1992 review, which was provoked by the death of a detention center inmate in questionable circumstances, the work program included rock-breaking. Interview, Choy Tin Bo, acting senior superintendent, Sha Tsui Detention Centre, April 12, 1997. On the recommendation of the working group responsible for the 1992 report, that aspect of the program was dropped.

Another change, perhaps more telling, involved the facility's name. As the 1992 report stated: "[T]he Chinese name of STDC connotes the meaning of enslavement. It is recommended to rename it."

164 The Human Rights Watch/Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor delegation was told that two years after the expiration of the one-year supervision order, 80 percent of inmates have not re-offended. Ibid. 165 See Jon Vagg, "Corrections," in Crime and Justice in Hong Kong (Traver and Vagg, eds., Hong Kong, 1991), pp. 147-50; R.G. Broadhurst, "The Hong Kong Penal System and the Convention Against Torture and Related International Human Rights Instruments," in Paul Byrne ed., The Hong Kong Penal System: Compliance with U.N. Standards in Hong Kong and theU.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Centre for Comparative and Public Law, and Faculty of Law, Hong Kong University, December 1995, p. 59. 166 Interviews, Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre, March 21, 1997; Tai Lam Centre for Women, March 25, 1997. 167 Through the extension of treaties to which Britain is a party, Hong Kong has prisoner transfer arrangements with twenty-four countries. 168 Wanda Szeto and Stella Lee, "Nervous Prisoners Seek Transfers," South China Morning Post, March 9, 1997. 169 Interview, Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre, March 21, 1997. 170 Not all of the inmates held at Siu Lam are mentally disturbed. The facility also has a security unit for prisoners who have testified for the prosecution in criminal cases, and, as discussed in Section IV, a behavior adjustment unit for inmates who present management problems. On the date of our visit, approximately four-fifths of the 235 prisoners at the facility were there for mental health reasons. 171 Interview, medical officer, Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre, March 27, 1997. 172 Niall Fraser, "Hospital Not Jail Plea for Insane," Eastern Express, May 1, 1996. 173 Interview, Wong Wai Man, superintendent, Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre, March 27, 1997. 174 At the time of our visit, there were thirty-four registered nurses (who have three years' nursing training) and fourteen enrolled nurses (who have two years' nursing training) employed at Siu Lam. The superintendent stated that almost thirty nurses were undergoing training, and he expected them to remedy the deficit to some extent. Ibid. 175 Interview, members of Hong Kong Chinese Civil Servants' Association, Correctional Service Officers (Psychiatric Nurse) Branch, March 28, 1997. 176 Ibid. 177 See Prison Rule 34A. 178 See A.B. v. Switzerland, App. No. 20872/92, 80-B Eur. Comm'n H.R. Dec. & Rep. 66 (1995) (dismissing complaint filed by inmate challenging prison urine testing).