Hong Kong: HC applauds protection decision

Briefing Notes, 25 February 2000

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 25 February 2000, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The High Commissioner appreciates the decision this week of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to grant the right of abode to the remaining 973 Vietnamese refugees and 327 non-refugees whose repatriation to Viet Nam has not been cleared by Hanoi authorities on nationality grounds. This gesture further demonstrates the commitment of China's SAR authorities to the protection of refugees in Hong Kong.

The decision is the accomplishment of three years of concerted efforts by the HKSAR Government, UNHCR and non-governmental partners, with the crucial support of the donor community, toward the self-reliance of this group. This permanent solution brings an end to the last chapter of the Comprehensive Plan of Action in Hong Kong.

In the coming weeks, UNHCR will conduct an information campaign in coordination with the SAR authorities and Caritas Hong Kong to actively encourage the 1,400 individuals to apply for the right of abode under the Widened Local Resettlement Scheme. This scheme will enable them to benefit from public housing and other social welfare assistance and will ultimately lead to Hong Kong citizenship after seven years.

Since the first influx of boat people in 1975, more than 200,000 people have landed in Hong Kong, of whom 143,000 have been resettled to third countries and 66,000 returned to Viet Nam (i.e. 57,000 voluntarily under UNHCR's auspices and 9,000 under the Hong Kong Government's Orderly Departure Programme).