(Editor’s note on 3 July 2020: The hunger strike has lasted for 5 days and is still continuing.)
30 June 2020
CIC Concern Group was notified that starting from 29 June 2020, Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre, at least 19 detainees in CIC began an indefinite hunger strike.
Hunger strikers could not bear the indefinite detention that they were under. According to sources, they hoped they could be immediately released by the Immigration Department. Some people were detained in CIC for nearly two years, and some even four years.
Legislative Council members Shiu Ka-chun, Fernando Cheung, Eddie Chu were informed of the incident, and they had issued a letter to the Head of the Immigration Department seeking for investigation into the incident and emergency visit to the CIC.
According to sources, participants in the hunger strike wished that more people could be informed of their action. CIC Concern Group expressed deep concern over the incident, and was planning to initiate action in support of strikers.
CIC: Background and Complaints
According to multiple media reports on 8 June 2020, CIC suffered from the problem of overly long detention periods and unclear guidelines on extending periods of detention, and also extremely bad hygiene, not enough medical services and bad dining conditions. Legislator Shiu Ka-chun quoted ex-detainees: ‘I prefer to be jailed than to enter CIC’.
According the Immigration Department’s on-paper response to legislators on 27 May 2020, until the end of March 2020, there were a total of 404 detainees. According to the Department’s response on 29 June 2020, in the past 6 months, the CIC detained on average 380 people, and 35 people were still waiting for a flight back to their countries of origin because of coronavirus outbreak.
Before Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre began to function, a dentition centre was in use inside the Victoria Prison. CIC began to function in 2005, and was temporarily operated by the Correctional Services, until the Immigration Department took over in April 2010. CIC was mainly used to detain persons in need of detention. Detainees were waiting to depart Hong Kong or get a recognisance paper to stay in the city, but the waiting time can last for a few days and up to a few years.
Countless Hunger Strike happened in CIC before
CIC Concern Group already knew – from records or first-hand accounts – that similar hunger strikes by CIC detainees had taken place at least in 2000, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2017 and 2018. According to sources, the first hunger strike took place on 1 Jan 2000, in the detention centre inside Victoria Prison. The hunger strike lasted for 10 days, and activists outside the centre also staged a hunger strike at the same time in support.
Mr. Smile, who had now attained UN refugee status and staged a 48-hour hunger strike when he was detained in CIC in 2009, said that hunger strikers needed a very strong will. ‘They have to decide: release us, or die here with no food and no water.’
He said staff at the Immigration Department did everything to stop his strike, such as asking him to eat, calming him down, and told him ‘everyone [staff] here is very good to you’. Later, they worried that Smile would lead other detainees to start a collective hunger strike, and isolated him in a single cell under bad conditions. Afterwards, they continuously bombarded him for 3 hours, persuading him to sign a document agreeing to be deported to his home country. Smile strongly refused, and then finally got released.
‘If one or two strikers were sent to the hospital because they insisted on hunger striking, showing that the Immigration Department’s management of the CIC was very bad, it would be a serious shame for CIC,’ Smile concluded, ‘If no one support them from the outside, when we get detained inside, no one will support us. We need to unite!’