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Speech by S for S at the "Victoria Prison Decommissioning Ceremony"

    Following is the speech by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, at the "Victoria Prison Decommissioning Ceremony" today (March 12) (translation):

Commissioner Pang, Chairman Ng, Dear Guests, colleagues in the Correctional Services Department,

     I am very honoured to be with you at the Decommissioning Ceremony of Victoria Prison to witness the completion of its historic mission.

     Victoria Prison is not only a landmark building in Hong Kong, but it's the first prison, having seen the territory's 160-odd years of development.  Together with the adjoining Central Police Station and the Central Magistracy, it was the centre of Hong Kong's criminal justice system in the early years.

     Victoria Prison was used to accommodate felons such as pirates and bandits during the early years of the British colony.  When the Japanese army occupied Hong Kong during the Second World War, most of its building were destroyed.  After the end of the war, the cluster of buildings were repaired and reopened as a prison.  When Hong Kong was declared a port of first asylum for Vietnamese refugees in the 1980s, the prison became a transit and repatriation centre.  After the boat people problem was solved, Victoria Prison was used for housing persons under custody and detainees, prior to their repatriation or deportation.  The ever changing functions of Victoria Prison are a testimony to the development of Hong Kong and its correctional services.

     The Correctional Services Department has improved its services all these years so that prison management in Hong Kong is in line with the internationally accepted norm.  Memoranda have been signed between the department and the prison authorities of various countries and the Mainland for mutual projects and for further improvement of services.  On the promotion of rehabilitation services, the Correctional Services Department has established partnership with various business and voluntary agencies in assisting rehabilitated offenders to reintegrate into society so as to reduce recidivism.  On this occasion of the Decommissioning Ceremony where the Correctional Services Department pitches in to raise funds for the Community Chest of Hong Kong, we can see that the department attaches great importance to community services.  The success of this fund-raising event demonstrates the public support towards correctional work.

     With the closure of old institutions, new and well-equipped institutions are commissioned one after another, e.g. the Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre, which came into operation last August, and Lai Chi Kok Correctional Institution, which will become operational in July and will take the place of Victoria Prison.  Besides, we will seek funding approval from the Legislative Council to re-develop Lo Wu Correctional Institution to provide some 1,200 additional penal places by the end of 2009.  The project will not only alleviate overcrowding in prisons, but also facilitate the promotion of various correctional services.

     After decommissioning, Victoria Prison will be re-developed into a tourist attraction.  Every bit of the prison will be nostalgically remembered by the public and become part of the collective memory among the members of the Correctional Services.  It is the dedicated and devoted service of all CSD staff that has made Victoria Prison glitter in history.  I trust that all of you will continue to strive for excellence in discharging your duties together to build a stable community jointly with all social sectors in Hong Kong.

     Thank you!

Ends/Sunday, March 12, 2006
Issued at HKT 18:41