Sixty asylum-seekers deported to China
SIXTY Vietnamese were deported to China yesterday under a controversial $500,000 deal between Hong Kong and mainland authorities.
The 24 men, 15 women and 21 children arrived in Hong Kong up to two years ago after fleeing China, where provincial authorities had bulldozed their makeshift homes to make way for a development.
They were returned to Beihai in Guangxi region yesterday on a Southern China Airlines charter flight.
About 260 other ex-China Vietnamese remain in Hong Kong and are to be deported in the coming months.
Secretary for Security Peter Lai Hing-ling said the group were sent back under an agreement made with China in March. Beijing was paid $500,000 by Hong Kong to cover what were called 'processing costs'. The Government has failed to explain what those costs relate to or why the payment was necessary.
Some of the deportees complained to a refugee lawyer, Rob Brook, that they had been duped by the Government.
Mr Brook said they were told when they arrived by boat that they would be eligible to seek asylum. However, they were detained and later told they would not be screened for eligibility. They were then held pending their return to China.
They were to have been sent back in April. Mr Lai said the delay had been caused by difficulties in determining where individuals had come from before they arrived in Hong Kong. He said the Government was 'fairly certain' they were all from China.
However, Mr Brook said two of the people deported to Guangxi yesterday were adamant that they had never lived there and were actually from Guangdong province.
Most of the ex-China Vietnamese are ethnic Chinese who fled to China at the height of the Sino-Vietnamese conflict in 1979.