Inmate rights group runs out of time

Top News | Carine Chow 15 Sep 2021

The inmate rights group Wall-fare has disbanded, it announced yesterday.

The news came on the heels of the Professional Teachers' Union passing a motion at a special meeting two days ago to officially disband the city's largest teachers' group.

Wall-fare, founded by former social welfare sector lawmaker Bottle Shiu Ka-chun last year, is the latest pro-democracy civil society group to dissolve in recent months.

One of its aims was supporting detained pro-democracy activists by raising funds to supply daily necessities and provide emotional support by pairing up jailed protesters with members of the public as pen pals.

Shiu said all Wall-fare members agreed to dissolve the group, but he refused to say whether it was due to political pressure.

"We have been taking each step very carefully in the past and kept reminding ourselves that we are providing humanitarian support, but we cannot continue anymore," he said.

As a major advocacy group for better prisoners' rights, Wall-fare had launched a petition for prisons to implement better cooling measures amid a scorching May. It had attracted over 100,000 signatories within 33 hours.

Asked what support prisoners will get without Wall-fare, Shiu said he could not say.

"We started off wanting to do the humblest work - to give a cup of cool water to the prisoners and their family. Unfortunately, this cup of water may have become too hot now," he said.

Wall-fare issued a statement on its Facebook page, saying it would cease operation yesterday after operating for nine months.

"Even though we are crushed [by the disbandment], the time we had exchanged was worth it. Sorry, we have done our best and our efforts themselves are the Wall-fare's story," it said.

The group's fund-raising scheme for prisoner provisions was halted on Monday and will stop receiving new cases. The group's social media will cease updating and its office in Lai Chi Kok will no longer be open to the public.

The remaining provisions will be distributed to inmates' families soon, but the group said it still has to discuss the financial arrangement after the closure.

Wall-fare will also apply for deregistration to the Companies Registry, given that it is a limited company, and lay off its employees.

According to the group's website, it has three full-time staff, including two social workers, and two part-time workers, and they are responsible for following up on the inmates' cases and the pen pal scheme.

Secretary for Security Chris Tang said last week that prisoners were using privileges such as chocolates and hair clips to recruit forces to endanger national security.

"Even if they get hold of one hair clip, or a piece of chocolate, it is regarded as a privilege, which can then recruit followers and establish influence, and spread more hatred against the government," Tang said.

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