Dissident helpers aim to stay

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 February, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 February, 1997, 12:00am

SOME members of Operation Yellow Bird, the dissident escape route, would prefer to stay in the territory after the handover.

A reliable source said the group, which has smuggled hundreds of dissidents from the mainland, had been offered protection if it faced persecution after the handover.

He declined to say where and what kind of assurances were given, but stressed: 'They will not be forgotten. Their safety was already guaranteed.

'Whether they would take such protection depends on the situation of individuals, but such arrangements have been made.' He said the protection was unconditional and also covered members' families.

Beijing has said that those who helped dissidents escape should be brought to justice.

When asked whether this meant the group would continue to exist after the handover, the source said: 'It is hard to say.

'It will largely depend on the attitude of the SAR government on human rights issues.

The source said it was not known how they could continue their work without assistance from institutions and organisations, after the change of sovereignty.

'There is not much that can be done at the moment. Most of the dissidents on the wanted list are either jailed or [have been] released without further persecution.

'There are not many left in China who need assistance,' he said.

The source said the main task was to arrange for about 80 Chinese dissidents stranded in Hong Kong to be accepted by foreign countries.

Detailed arrangements should be made in the next two months.