Lawmakers said they would demand that the Security Bureau answer questions as to whether an emergency response strategy was formally activated to help Hongkongers stranded in Thailand by political unrest. The Emergency Response Operations Outside the Hong Kong SAR plan was put in place last year in response to the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 and fears that such an incident, or situations such as social unrest, could strand Hong Kong people overseas. The South China Morning Post on Wednesday asked the Security Bureau whether the emergency mechanism had been activated, but the bureau has not replied. Yesterday, a bureau spokesman told the Post only that a 'mechanism' had been activated and the bureau had headed a 'special team', including the Immigration Department and Government Information Services, to deal with the Thai situation. According to guidelines laid out in Hong Kong's emergency-response mechanism for external incidents, accessible on the Security Bureau's website, those three organisations are charged with evaluating any situation and making recommendations before an emergency response is activated, and once it is activated, implementing the response. Before last year, the government had a mechanism for overseas emergencies involving Hong Kong residents which hinged on the Immigration Department's hotline that receives Hongkongers' requests for assistance from overseas. Legislative Council security panel vice-chairman James To Kun-sun said he suspected the government had not activated its formal emergency- response mechanism for external incidents. 'We need to find out if there are any standards or persons responsible for activating this mechanism,' he said. He said he would press the Security Bureau on whether the emergency response plan had been formally activated. Panel chairman Lau Kong-wah said the government would report on the Thai incident, any loopholes in the government's emergency-response mechanism and related decision-making procedures, and consider further suggestions to improve the system. Security chief Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong said yesterday on an RTHK programme that a review of the emergency mechanism, which Mr Lee described as 'very successful', was under way. Responding to questions about people deputising for decision-makers in the event of their absence from Hong Kong during an emergency which might require activation of an emergency response, Mr Lee said his political assistant was not empowered to give orders, or even opinions, to civil servants handling a crisis. 'Victor Lo Yik-kee [Mr Lee's political assistant] has reported to me on the situation and I am the one to make the decision. He has no right to intervene [in decisions made by] civil servants,' Mr Lee said. He said Mr Lo was of directorate grade two rank, while permanent secretary Chang King-yiu was a grade eight, and deputy secretary Ngai Wing-chit was a grade three. 'Mr Lo is not in a position to give commands to them,' Mr Lee said. Mr Lo, recruited as a political assistant in May, was offered a monthly salary of HK$134,150 for the job.