Chances of UN repaying $1.16b 'slim'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 February, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 February, 2000, 12:00am

Officials believe the chances of the United Nations repaying its $1.16 billion debt for the care of Vietnamese refugees are slim.

The 25-year boat people saga will come to an end if the remaining 1,400 Vietnamese accept the offer of identity cards by May.

But at RTHK's City Forum yesterday, legislator Lau Kong-wah of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong said there would be no conclusion until the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) repaid the debt.

Principal Assistant Secretary for Security So Kam-shing said the Government had tried to seek the repayment in the past few years but had been unsuccessful.

'We must face the reality that the UNHCR has its financial difficulties,' he said.

Legislator Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee of the Liberal Party suggested waiving the debt but demanded the UNHCR formally commend Hong Kong's contributions.

She agreed the chance of repayment was slim.

'Hong Kong has done a lot in the past but with no recognition nor appreciation by the international community.

'The Government can ask the UN to recognise how much Hong Kong has done throughout this chapter of history,' she said.

But Albert Ho Chun-yan of the Democratic Party said the Government must keep on asking for repayment until the UNHCR made a formal rejection.

Mr So said one-third of the remaining 1,408 Vietnamese had been born in Hong Kong.

He was confident they would not have problems staying here. Many had already found jobs.

An inter-departmental group had been set up to introduce various means of assistance.