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June 28, 2024

The Witness: Owen Chow Ka-shing is accused of sending a complaint letter through his lawyer without authorization. The judge ruled that he has a case to answer. Closing arguments are set for July 2.

In May last year, Owen Chow Ka-shing, who was detained due to the “47-person case,” was accused of sending a complaint letter to the Ombudsman’s Office through his lawyer, complaining that the Correctional Services Department damaged and refused two Buddhist books sent by his friends and family. Chow and a female lawyer denied a charge of “conveying an unauthorized item out of prison” and are on trial. The case entered its second day of hearings on Friday (28th) at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts.

Principal Magistrate Ivy Chui Yee-mei, ruled that there’s a case to answer, requiring the defendants to present their defense. Both individuals chose not to testify or call witnesses, and the case was adjourned to next Tuesday (July 2nd) for closing arguments.

Correctional officers testified that mailing complaint letters requires a security check.

On Thursday (27th), the prosecution summoned all four witnesses, all correctional officers. They testified that inmates must request a complaint form from the Ombudsman’s Office from staff. After filling it out, inmates must notify the duty officer, and a senior correctional officer will conduct a security check in front of the inmate, ensuring there are no prohibited items such as homemade blades before sealing and mailing the letter, emphasizing that the content of the letter is not reviewed. The Chief Correctional Officer confirmed that inmates can send out complaint letters through other means but must apply to the department. The defense questioned an assistant correctional officer who, after becoming aware of Chow’s complaint, allegedly warned, “Remember the storage room, security will deal with you,” which the assistant correctional officer denied in court.

Representing the second defendant Phyllis Woo Wing-See, senior barrister Wong Ching-yu questioned the procedure for sending out complaint letters, claiming it is based only on internal correctional guidelines without legal foundation, and argued that the case should not require a defense.

The judge inquired when the complaint letter became an “unauthorized item.” The prosecution: the form itself was authorized, but not authorized to be sent out.

Chief Magistrate Ivy Chui Yee-mei adjourned the trial until Friday (28th) to decide whether there’s a case for the defendants to answer. At the start of the hearing, she expressed a desire to inquire when the prosecution considered the complaint letter to have become an “unauthorized item.”

Senior public prosecutor Vincent Lee Ting-wai stated that while the Correctional Services Department issues complaint forms, the forms are authorized items. However, they must undergo correctional security checks before they can be authorized for mailing, thus the item itself and the act of sending out the letter are both unauthorized.

Defense: prosecution misunderstands the law

Senior barrister Wong Ching-yu responded, stating, “It is quite obvious that the prosecution has misunderstood the ‘Prison Rules’.” He pointed out that the Prison Rules specify that as long as a letter is addressed to the Ombudsman, inmates have the right to write and send it, and the Correctional Services Department does not have the authority to authorize inmates to send out letters, “so not following correctional guidelines does not equate to committing a crime.”

After a brief adjournment, the judge ruled that prima facie evidence was established, and the two defendants were required to present their defense. The defendants chose not to testify or call witnesses. Owen Chow’s side submitted a letter sent to Chow by the Correctional Services Department on March 8, 2023, without reading the contents in court.

The judge adjourned the case until next Tuesday (July 2) for closing arguments, during which Chow will continue to be remanded, and the co-defendant remains on bail under the same conditions.

Two defendants deny committing the crime of carrying unauthorized articles out of prison

The two defendants, Owen Chow Ka-shing (26 years old, unemployed) and Phyllis Woo Wing-See (30 years old, assistant lawyer), both deny a charge of “carrying unauthorized articles out of prison.” Specifically, on May 2, 2023, in Hong Kong, they allegedly removed an unauthorized document from the prison.

Owen Chow was previously sentenced to 61 months and 15 days in prison for his involvement in the “July 1 Legislative Council riot” and is currently serving his sentence.

The Witness

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