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LCQ6: Helping young persons in custody reintegrate into society
     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Pui-leung and a reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Tang Ping-keung, in the Legislative Council today (December 7):
     There are views that among the young persons and minors committed to correctional facilities due to the movement of opposition to the proposed legislative amendments (those persons in custody), many of them were affected by the social environment and fake news at the time and acted on impulse, thus going astray. Therefore, how to truly bring into play the combination of safe custody and rehabilitation for guiding and supporting these young persons in their reintegration into society, is of vital importance. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the number of those persons in custody and, among them, the number of persons who voluntarily participated in the "deradicalisation" rehabilitation programmes; the progress and effectiveness of such programmes, and whether measures are in place to encourage more of those persons in custody to participate in the programmes; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) given that the Correctional Services Department (CSD) is currently offering young persons in custody courses for taking the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (HKDSE), but it has been reported that students' learning there has relatively more limitations, e.g. not being able to access the Internet for searching information and not being offered courses covering all HKDSE elective subjects by the correctional facilities, of the number of those persons in custody who sat for the HKDSE in each of the past three years, and whether the authorities will review and enhance the existing mechanism for learning in correctional facilities; and
(3) as it is learnt that among those persons in custody, there are quite a number of tertiary students, postgraduate students and working young adults, while there are views that the vocational training currently provided by the CSD's Industries and Vocational Training Section has relatively less recognition, and that some of such vocational training is not keeping abreast of society, whether the authorities will make corresponding adjustments to the vocational training provided for those persons in custody according to their education levels; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
Acting President,
     Many young persons in custody (PICs) have been incited or influenced, leading them to go astray. This is particularly so for cases related to the black-clad violence. As long as they are genuinely willing to turn over a new leaf, our society will not give up on them. To further assist these PICs in their rehabilitation, the Correctional Services Department (CSD) will step up its efforts in implementing services in various areas such as education, psychological counselling and employment, with a view to helping young PICs re-establish positive values and equipping them for future reintegration into society.
     My reply to the question raised by the Member is as follows:
(1) In recent years, quite a number of radical persons involved in serious offences have been admitted to correctional institutions, including 1 315 convicted persons involved in black-clad violence cases, among which 345 of them are young persons under the age of 21. Having regard to their rehabilitation needs, the CSD has launched the Project PATH and strives to assist them to rebuild positive values and face challenges with reference to the following three major rehabilitation directions.
     Firstly, on "understanding Chinese history and national education": The CSD has launched an educational initiative called Understanding history is the Beginning of Knowledge. Through a diversified mode of learning, PICs can obtain a better understanding of Chinese history and culture and enhance their sense of national identity. In line with the curriculum reform, the CSD has also strengthened moral and civic education, education on the Basic Law and the Hong Kong National Security Law, etc. to enhance PICs' law-abiding awareness, thereby guiding them back on the right track.
     Secondly, on "psychological reconstruction and re-establishment of values": The CSD launched the Youth Lab in July this year, which helps young PICs, through different psychological treatment, undergo psychological rehabilitation and reconstruction, thereby enhancing their law-abiding awareness and ability to cope with adversity. The Change Lab, which commenced service on October 26 this year, provides community-based psychological counselling for young PICs after release, with a view to assisting them to build up confidence and psychological resilience, overcoming difficulties and resisting temptations.
     Thirdly, on "life planning and rebuilding of family relationships": The CSD has launched an initiative called Project JET to provide more employment opportunities, including those in the Greater Bay Area, for young PICs and rehabilitated persons. Moreover, professionals from different sectors have been invited to participate in life planning programmes held in correctional institutions to assist PICs to prepare themselves for future employment and studies.
     Since the launch of the Project PATH in November 2021, as of October 31 this year, a total number of 677 PICs had participated in the programme, of which 474 were convicted of offences related to the black-clad violence, amounting to around three-quarters of the total number of PICs involving in black-clad violence cases who are still under the custody of the CSD. By observation of officers of the CSD, the Project PATH has satisfactory outcome, in which positive responses were received with participants actively joining the programme, thereby their law-abiding awareness could be enhanced, their emotions could also be improved, and with them feeling showing deep remorse towards their past misdeeds. In addition, for those released rehabilitated persons who participated in the programme, there is so far no record of their subsequent conviction.
(2) The CSD has all along been providing half-day education for young PICs under the age of 21 with certified teachers, and assisting eligible PICs to take different public examinations including the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (HKDSE). In the past three years (2020-2022), there were nine, seven and 12 young PICs sitting for the HKDSE respectively. Having considered the ability, learning interest, resources of institutions, and training duration of young PICs, the CSD offers four core subjects, namely Chinese Language, English Language, Mathematics and Citizenship and Social Development, as well as two elective subjects, namely Tourism and Hospitality Studies and Economics at institutions for young PICs. The CSD will review the choices of elective subjects from time to time so as to meet the learning needs of PICs.
     Due to security considerations, PICs are not allowed to directly search for information via the Internet. However, to strike a balance between facilitating PICs' learning and the maintenance of security in correctional institutions, the CSD has set up E-Learning Resources Corners in correctional institutions from 2015 for PICs to access e-learning materials for distance learning courses. To further facilitate their learning, the CSD will launch an electronic learning platform Learning on Demand for PICs. By using a tablet computer connected with the intranet of the respective institution, a PIC can access the electronic learning materials in the system, which cover a variety of areas and are of different levels, for self-learning. At present, the system provides learning materials for the secondary education curriculum, distance learning courses offered by Hong Kong Metropolitan University, public examinations (including the HKDSE, the General Aptitude Putonghua Shuiping Kaoshi Primary and Secondary and the International English Language Testing System). The contents of such materials will be updated from time to time to comprehensively cater for the learning needs of different PICs.
     As for post-secondary education, the CSD and Hong Kong Metropolitan University signed a Memorandum of Understanding on October 24, 2022, with a view to providing more comprehensive support for those who wish to continue their studies during incarceration, including the provision of financial assistance, credit transfers and programme articulation. Furthermore, the CSD would assist PICs to return to school and continue their studies after release where feasible.
(3) Currently, the CSD provides 13 vocational training courses for young PICs, covering courses of various industries, such as business practice, image design, beauty care and coffee shop operation. Arrangements will also be made for young PICs to sit for the relevant examinations held by the accreditation bodies, in order to assist them to obtain market-accredited qualifications.
     The CSD will review the types and contents of various vocational training programmes from time to time having regard to the change in the background of PICs, the needs of the local employment market, the professional advice provided by external training bodies, etc. In recent years, technological elements such as computer animation design, 3D design, computer graphics design and practical 2D design have been incorporated into different vocational training programmes of the CSD. The CSD will continue to review and introduce new elements into vocational training courses, and strive for obtaining certification for relevant courses.
     Acting President, the CSD will continue to actively promote diversified and appropriate services in facilitating the rehabilitation of PICs and their reintegration into society.
     Thank you, Acting President.
Ends/Wednesday, December 7, 2022
Issued at HKT 16:52
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