The government was under pressure last night to say whether it had activated an emergency-response mechanism for external incidents to help travellers stranded by political unrest in Thailand. The mechanism was put in place last year in light of the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 to help residents affected by natural disaster or social unrest overseas. Eight hours after the South China Morning Post asked the Security Bureau whether the mechanism had been activated, a spokesman would only say that a working group including officials from different departments had been set up to deal with the Thai crisis. However, the spokesman said he could not provide details about this emergency working group. On Monday, Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong said an emergency response team including Immigration Department and Transport and Housing Bureau staff members had been set up to liaise with airlines. Lawmaker James To Kun-sun urged the government to disclosure details of the emergency operations carried out in connection with the crisis. 'It seems that they are avoiding telling the truth to the public. Everything seems to be a mess inside the government,' Mr To said. According to the government's 'emergency response operations' plan, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has the power to activate the highest level of emergency response, including the evacuation of a large number of Hong Kong residents at risk overseas as the result of natural disaster or social unrest. Mr Tsang would assume command of responses to an overseas incident if it were declared a 'tier three' incident. Under the emergency response operations plan, the chief executive, chief secretary or secretary for security can personally initiate the highest-level response. But overall responsibility for the handling of an external emergency affecting Hong Kong lies with the chief executive. The plan was put in place last year to provide assistance to Hong Kong travellers on package tours or selfarranged trips who find themselves at risk as a result of major external emergencies such as a tsunami, terrorist bombings, aircraft hijacking or civil unrest overseas. It was first mooted after the 2004 tsunami killed more than 200,000 people, mostly in South and Southeast Asia, including 44 Hong Kong residents. Mr Lee had told the Legislative Council in 2006 that the government was planning measures to assist travellers on package tours or self-arranged trips in emergency situations. An incident involving low risk to Hong Kong residents overseas would be designated a 'tier one' incident by the unit of the Immigration Department responsible for offering assistance to Hong Kong residents. Where the significance of an event for residents or the impact upon them was considered medium, the Immigration Department would recommend that the Security Bureau treat it as 'tier two' incident. The Security Bureau would monitor events and keep the chief executive and chief secretary informed. The government's Information Services Department would play a similar role. If any situation threatening Hong Kong residents worsened or represented high or extreme risk to them, the Security Bureau's emergency support unit - headed by a deputy permanent secretary - would recommend that the security chief treat it as a 'tier three' incident. In the event of this, the chief secretary would head an emergency monitoring and support centre to co-ordinate the work of different departments and non-governmental organisations such as airlines. Dedicated hotlines to help the public would be set up. The Immigration Department's 1868 hotline could also be used.