Date
23 June 2017
A prison officer was suspended for wearing a Buddhist beads bracelet at the Lai King Correctional Institution in Kwai Chung. Photos: Facebook, Weibo
A prison officer was suspended for wearing a Buddhist beads bracelet at the Lai King Correctional Institution in Kwai Chung. Photos: Facebook, Weibo

Prison officer files court case against Buddhist bracelet ban

A correctional services officer has gone to court after her boss suspended her from duty for wearing a Buddhist bead bracelet to work.

In her application for judicial review, Wong Wai-fun, an assistant officer at the Correctional Services Department, accused the agency of religious discrimination because the commissioner suspended her from work for wearing the Buddhist item, but allowed members of the staff to wear Sikh copper bracelets, hk01.com reports.

Wong, who considers herself a devout Buddhist, said her religious freedom has been violated by the unfair treatment.

She said she had applied in writing and in person on many occasions to the CSD, and had even issued a legal letter to seek permission to wear the Buddhist bracelet in the prison facilities, but had been turned down verbally every time without any explanation given.

It was revealed that Wong wore the bracelet on her wrist on Sept. 28, 2011 and placed the item in her pouch on Oct. 6, 2011.

On Oct. 6 of the same year, she was suspended from work for allegedly violating four internal regulations.

Wong said the CSD ban on the wearing of religious objects in the CSD premises is against Article 15 of the Human Rights Law on religious rights, while its differential treatment towards Sikh and Buddhist believers violates Article 22 of the same law.

Wong lashed out at CSD for not offering a proper explanation for the ban. She noted that legislator “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung had filed a case of sexual discrimination against the department for having his hair cut short, and won.

A CSD spokesperson refused to comment on Wong’s case, noting that legal proceedings have commenced.

However, the spokesperson said that under Article 18A of the Prison Ordinance, anyone who brings restricted items to prison facilities is committing an offense.

For security reasons and depending on the workers’ needs, the CSD has revised some of its internal regulations, allowing personal items like watches and glasses to be worn by officers on duty.

The CSD said it reviews the regulations from time to time to better respond to requirements of the job and needs of the staff.

Correctional Services Officers Association manager Cheng Yuk-leung believes that CSD restrictions on the wearing of certain items in prison facilities are not meant to impinge on a person’s religious freedom but are dictated by security requirements in such facilities, Ming Pao Daily reported.

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