Up to 270 asylum-seekers face repatriation

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 April, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 April, 2000, 12:00am

More than 100 asylum-seeking ethnic-Chinese Vietnamese families face repatriation to the mainland after failing to substantiate allegations of bias among immigration officers.

Mr Justice Frank Stock refused yesterday to quash removal orders issued by the Immigration Department between June and October 1997 against 270 immigrants from 116 families.

The Court of First Instance judge dismissed the applicants' claims that officials, including Choy Ping-tai, now a deputy director of immigration, were biased.

'It is simply not accurate to assert that the immigration authorities in Hong Kong, including Mr Choy, assumed willy-nilly that all those who came from the mainland and had previously fled there from Vietnam had been settled on the mainland,' the judge said.

The ethnic Chinese boat people fled Vietnam in the late 1970s and early 1980s due to alleged racial tension during the Sino-Vietnamese war.

They came to Hong Kong in the early 1990s and were screened by the Government between April and June 1997 after a Privy Council ruling in 1996. None was given refugee status.

Mr Choy, then an assistant director of immigration, was in charge of Vietnamese migrant issues for five years until 1998. The applicants alleged he had shown a strong propensity to disbelieve them.

'The truth of the matter is that there was before Mr Choy a wealth of evidence from a number of cogent sources which made the claims of the applicants very difficult for them to prove,' Mr Justice Stock said.

The judge also dismissed claims that interviewing officers simply saw the screening as a formality.

'It seems unlikely that [Immigration Officer Ip Ka-man] would spend three days interviewing [Lai Yen] and making notes carefully recorded, only to suggest to her that it was all a charade.'