BRITISH Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd has been advised to give priority in his visit to Hanoi tomorrow to easing the plight of a Hong Kong man on death row in a Ho Chi Minh City prison.
It is understood Wong Chi-shing is in solitary confinement in Chi Hoa Prison but has no idea of when he will be executed, the first foreigner to be sentenced to death in modern Vietnam.
'This case is without precedent and no one in the Foreign Office has any idea of what will happen next, not even Wong knows what is going on or when he will face death,' one source close to the British Embassy said.
The embassy in Hanoi has urged Mr Hurd to raise the issue in historic meetings tomorrow with Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet and Deputy Foreign Minister Vu Khoan, it is understood.
Embassy officials have refused to comment due to the extreme sensitivity of the case.
Mr Hurd has so far received no response to a plea for clemency lodged last November, after President Le Duc Anh refused earlier pleas for the death sentence to be commuted.
Wong was allegedly caught in transit from Bangkok with more than five kilograms of heroin in a false-bottomed suitcase, the Vietnamese having earlier launched a campaign against drug traffickers and Wong's arrest resulting in the biggest seizure ever.
Mr Hurd is set to discuss a wide range of issues with Vietnamese officials, including trade, business and boat people matters.
All talks are expected to be boosted by a complex GBP50 million (HK$596.49 million at current rates) aid deal now being finalised which is a mixture of infrastructure-related aid and soft loans.
Mr Hurd will be accompanied on his 24-hour visit by a delegation of top British businessmen, including John Gray, head of the Hongkong Bank. The bank is seeking a full licence to operate in Vietnam.
In Bangkok yesterday, Mr Hurd signed a treaty with his Thai counterpart Prasong Soonsiri with Britain and Thailand promising to help each other fight the drugs trade and international crime.
The Foreign Secretary arrived in Thailand yesterday at the start of a three-country tour that will go on to Vietnam and end in Hong Kong at the weekend.