The administration's response to the stranding of thousands of Hong Kong people in Thailand amid anti-government protests had exposed inadequacies in its system for responding to such emergencies, the chief secretary admitted yesterday. Henry Tang Ying-yen apologised on behalf of the administration to those who had been inconvenienced, but denied it had reacted too slowly. There had been no power vacuum over the weekend, he said. He said Sunday's decision that chartering flights to bring the stranded travellers home was unnecessary had been a collective one. The government made a U-turn a day later and said it would lay on flights, but they returned to the city 70 per cent empty. Flights to and from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi international airport resumed yesterday, eight days after protesters forced its closure, stranding 400,000 travellers. 'We have a standing mechanism [to help travellers stranded overseas]. But I realise the mechanism has inadequacies. The government apologises for the inconvenience caused to travellers stranded in Thailand,' he said. His apology did nothing to appease even government-friendly lawmakers. A government source said it was natural that people should call for senior officials to shoulder responsibility for the incident. 'Both Mr Tang and [Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong] had to shoulder political responsibility for the saga even though the security chief was out of town at the weekend,' the source said. Mr Tang, who was speaking on the sidelines of yesterday's Legislative Council meeting, refused to say what responsibility he should bear for the problems. Ip Wai-ming, a lawmaker from the Federation of Trade Unions, urged Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen to apologise for the government's handling of the incident. Mr Tang said both he and Mr Lee had been monitoring closely the situation in Thailand. On Tuesday, Mr Lee said the Security Bureau had not notified the chief executive, chief secretary or Executive Council of the situation over the weekend. 'There was no 'vacuum' within the government's top echelon,' the chief secretary said. He denied its response had been 'too slow'. On Tuesday, Mr Lee took responsibility for the delay in securing the return of travellers trapped by the occupation of Bangkok's airports and issued his own apology. The government source said the affair would have serious repercussions for the administration. 'Unfortunately the incident left some members of the public an impression that the government has turned a blind eye to the plight of residents stranded in Thailand,' he said. The chief secretary would not be drawn on what responsibility he should shoulder for the incident. 'We have made a collective decision and it is also the responsibility of the whole governing team,' Mr Tang said. Responding to Mr Ip's call for an apology from the chief executive, a government spokesman said the chief secretary and secretary for security had apologised on behalf of the Hong Kong government. Ip Kwok-him, a vice-chairman of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said: 'The whole thing really looked stupid. How could Hong Kong say it wouldn't charter flights while even Macau had immediately chartered one?' Alan Leong Kah-kit, a legislator from the Civic Party, said officials 'lacked political sensitivity' and had not paid enough heed to the public's anxiety during the crisis. Asked whether he and Mr Lee should step down, Mr Tang said the government had been following an established mechanism to handle Hong Kong residents who were stranded overseas in times of incidents such as disturbances and strikes. Mr Tang admitted there were certain inadequacies with the mechanism. Mr Lee said on Tuesday that it needed reviewing. The chief secretary noted that the special flights Cathay Pacific Airways operated to Hong Kong from the U-Tapao military airport 140km southeast of Bangkok on Friday and Saturday did not pick up independent travellers from Hong Kong who were not holding Cathay tickets. He said the administration was told by Cathay Pacific that it would give priority to tour groups and those travellers who had bought air tickets, while the remaining seats would be sold to independent travellers.