Relatives of HK's missing say they want death certificates issued to provide them with a sense of closure A month after the Asian tsunami, families of Hong Kong's missing have issued an anguished plea for their loved ones to be declared dead so they can grieve and escape a legal limbo. Some relatives of the 28 Hongkongers still missing from the Boxing Day tragedy are considering revisiting Thailand in an effort to secure death certificates that would grant them some form of closure. Tong Choi-ying, whose older sister's German husband, Holger Dreher, and the couple's two children, Yvette and Christopher, are missing from the Khao Lak Bhandari Resort in Thailand, said she understood the government could not change the legal system overnight. 'But this needs to proceed, so we are thinking of alternative channels. We plan to get together all families and to hire Thai lawyers to file death-certificate applications in Thailand which the Hong Kong government will verify.' Under Hong Kong law, families must wait seven years for a death certificate if no body can be found. Without it, the financial affairs of the missing are frozen, with relatives unable to claim inheritances or life insurance, or access bank accounts. Ms Tong said death certificates would provide more than just financial relief - they would also be an emotional comfort. 'This is dragging on for too long, and if it drags on longer, these families of the missing will not be able to grieve. 'This is a cruel punishment for the survivors with this uncertainty. This needs to end, so they can gradually recover from the trauma and resume a normal life.' Ms Tong was not sure whether taking the matter to Thailand would present a faster solution than dealing with it through Hong Kong's legal system. Another alternative would be to apply to the High Court in Hong Kong to certify the deaths before the seven years have elapsed. '[But] how long would the family need to wait for the court's ruling? No one knows,' said Cheung Kwok-che, chairman of the Social Workers' General Union. 'Families are given an alternative, but there are a lot of unknowns.' The union has started a volunteer group, Hand-in-Hand Action, to answer inquiries for the families of tsunami victims and survivors. Solicitor Alan Wong, a volunteer with the group, estimated that court proceedings could take at least three months. The insurance sector has promised to adopt special measures to speed up payouts in some cases. Peter Tam Chung-ho, executive director of the Federation of Insurers, said companies would pay life- insurance beneficiaries who could provide evidence the missing were in a tsunami-affected area, such as air tickets and hotel vouchers. The British government last week adopted a fast-track system allowing death certificates to be issued within months in the event that a victim's body is missing. A Home Affairs Bureau spokesman said Hong Kong had no such arrangement. But the government would do its best to help families. Sixteen Hong Kong people were confirmed killed in the tsunami. All those still missing were reported to have been in Thailand. For help, call Hand-in-Hand Action's hotline, 82063006, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org . The Immigration Department's hotline remains open at 28293010.