Canadians plan mass evacuation

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 June, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 June, 1996, 12:00am

CANADIAN officials admitted yesterday there was 'a large grain of truth' behind reports that a blueprint existed for a massive air-and-sea emergency evacuation of their citizens from Hong Kong.

Canadian Foreign Affairs spokesman Jeffrey Chapman told the Sunday Morning Post yesterday that his government had prepared contingency plans for an evacuation, but the documents were not drafted in anticipation of violent chaos after the handover.

The official comments came after newspaper reports that the country had 'plans for a massive rescue of Canadian citizens and dependents from Hong Kong in the event that dangerous civil unrest follows the Chinese takeover next year'.

Canada's Southam newspaper chain reported that the plan was classified secret and it envisaged 'a sustained airlift and sea-borne removal of at least 100,000 people and perhaps hundreds of thousands more with the assistance of the United States Navy'.

The report said the United States had not responded to approaches for its help, if necessary.

Mr Chapman said the plan for Hong Kong was 'really an inventory of resources and information about Hong Kong that would be useful in the event of a disaster or a crisis of some sort'.

'There is large grain of truth in the article but I think it's characterised rather cataclysmically,' Mr Chapman said.

'We have contingency emergency plans for every place we have a Canadian mission, so there is nothing remarkable about having one for Hong Kong.

'The plan is designed to be used in the event of civil unrest, if that should happen, but also in the event of natural disasters and plane crashes.' More than 100,000 Canadian citizens live in Hong Kong.

Mr Chapman said parts of the report, dealing with evacuation plans in case Kai Tak was shut down, were very sensitive.

'That goes to the substance of the plan that I'm not at liberty to discuss,' he said.

'But in any situation, all of our contingency planning calls for co-ordination with other nations that have representative numbers of nationals living there or resident there.

'So it's not unreasonable that in the event of an evacuation that we would co-ordinate our activities with, perhaps, the Americans, the British, the Australians.

'If we were co-ordinating our activities it's conceivable that we would take responsibility for citizens of those other countries - just as we would expect them to do for us in terms of the actual mechanics of evacuation.' In April, the South China Morning Post revealed a top aide to British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind owned a large stake of a company offering emergency evacuation from Hong Kong in case of political instability.

Democratic Party legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip, who is also a Canadian citizen, said he thought every country had a responsibility to have such a contingency plan in case of trouble. The Canadian plan was as sensible as it could be, he said.