LEGISLATORS decided to continue their support for the first asylum policy despite rising fears Hong Kong will forever be saddled with the responsibility of taking care of the thousands of Vietnamese boat people in the territory. They voted two-to-35 against an amendment by Alfred Tso Siu-wai to Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee's motion. Mr Tso urged the administration immediately to drop the policy, under which boat people are not turned away. Moving the motion, Mrs Chow said the Government should close all boat people centres by the end of next year and should not change the illegal immigrant status of the boat people. She also called on the British Government to take in all the boat people rejected by the Vietnamese Government. Mrs Chow asked whether the release of the 125 boat people to open camps and subsequent rumours that another 5,000 boat people would be released was to pave the way for the British Government to renege on its promise that the problem would be solved before 1997. Mr Tso said residents living near the boat people camps had long suffered the nuisances caused by the Vietnamese. The solution to the problem, which was a time bomb, was to do away with the first asylum policy. He asked who would dare to guarantee the 23,000 boat people would not become local residents. He also asked whether officials would resign if the release of the 125 boat people sparked another influx of Vietnamese. But Martin Barrow said legislators should not over-react and it was not in Hong Kong's interest to change the policy. Emily Lau Wai-hing said it was neither humane nor feasible to refuse entry to boat people. The number was small when compared with the total number of mainlanders emigrating to Hong Kong. 'A civilised society must also be a caring one,' she said. Democrat James To Kun-sun said it was wrong for Hong Kong to unilaterally scrap the policy which was part of an international agreement. Secretary for Security Alistair Asprey said the policy, together with the voluntary repatriation programme, was formulated and decided by the Hong Kong Government. 'It was not forced on us by the United Kingdom Government against our will,' Mr Asprey said. He said a realistic timetable for return of all non-refugees to Vietnam now appeared to be two years, instead of one year. 'This is not a guarantee. I cannot foretell the future. It is, I believe, a reasonable estimate.' He said it was impossible to amend the law in such a way that the release of 125 boat people would not be repeated. 'This would require this council sanction indefinite administrative detention. Our courts would rightly not uphold such a law.' He said there was no justification to reverse the first asylum policy nor would there be any practical benefits.