SECURITY forces are gearing up to face tough resistance at the Whitehead Vietnamese detention centre next week when they attempt to remove about 100 people.
More than 2,000 police and Correctional Services Department (CSD) officers will be deployed in the operation - the first at the camp since May when tear-gas was fired at inmates.
Government officials fear opposition could be the toughest they have had to deal with and that there may be heavy injuries.
The targeted group will be taken to the High Island detention centre as an interim move before being deported to Vietnam. High Island is recognised as being an easier camp to extract people from than Whitehead.
A top CSD officer said yesterday the group could not be immediately deported because Hanoi had not approved their return.
The raid, to take place on August 10, is now in the final planning stages as government officers go through contingency briefings.
The group slated for removal next week have been told that they should pack up their belongings and leave the camp voluntarily rather than wait until they were forcibly taken.
In the last raid at Whitehead on May 20, hundreds of Vietnamese broke out of a compound in an all-day battle with police and CSD officers.
About 600 detainees broke into other compounds to escape removal. The operation was to transfer 1,500 people. Full control was not established until the next day.
'The men expect they will meet tough opposition when they go in but that is their job and of course they will perform their duty,' a CSD officer said.
Whitehead is Hong Kong's largest Vietnamese detention centre and is home to about 10,000 of the territory's 21,000 Vietnamese.
The United Nations and the Government linked the incident in May to moves in the United States to resettle up to half of the 40,000 boat people remaining in the region.
The Government has a policy of not commenting on operations involving Vietnamese.
Since the US proposal, the voluntary repatriation scheme, which was to have returned 1,800 a month from Hong Kong, has been stalled.
A group of about 120 held at Green Island are expected to be repatriated when clearance is given by Hanoi.
Nine of the 23 Vietnamese who escaped from Green Island last week remained at large last night.
Six of the 89 who escaped earlier last month from High Island are also still on the loose.
In preparation for moving the Whitehead group next week, a weapons search was conducted at High Island yesterday.
A two-month old Vietnamese baby died yesterday at the Tuen Mun Hospital.
A CSD spokesman said the boy had been sick since he and his mother were admitted to the Tai Lam Correctional Centre in June. She had been sentenced to serve four months for theft.
It is believed the child's mother was a heroin addict and the baby had experienced serious medical problems since birth.