Put torture claimants to work in Hong Kong detention camp, says Nepali diplomat

Suggestion by consul-general, backed by pro-establishment lawmaker, to weed out ‘bogus’ cases slammed as contrary to human rights by minorities activist

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 April, 2016, 7:33pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 October, 2017, 1:21pm

Nepal has controversially urged Hong Kong to set up a detention camp so that people filing torture claims can work for their keep in the city, saying “bogus claimants” have caused unfair discrimination against ­legitimate nationals.

Baliram Prasad Dhami, the Nepalese consul-general to Hong Kong, said on Thursday he did not believe all Nepalis awaiting official verification of their claims were genuine applicants, despite strong criticism of Nepal by international human rights organisations in recent years.

“We can put them in some refugee detention camp [to let them have] bad experiences that life is not as it is [expected],” he said in a press conference jointly organised with pro-establishment lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun.

But the diplomat’s idea of putting claimants to work in the camp was slammed by a minorities activist as anti-human rights.

Executive councillor and former security minister Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee last month called for a camp to be set up in Shenzhen for asylum and torture claimants to stem the influx of economic immigrants to the city.

But Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying dismissed the idea, although he accused the refugees of causing great distress to the city.

Few Nepalis came to Hong Kong to seek asylum after the country’s civil war with Maoist militias ended in 2006. However, according to a Human Rights Watch report last year, the south Asian country made “virtually no discernible progress” in upholding promises of justice and ­accountability.

As of February, only 300 or so claimants being processed by Hong Kong immigration were Nepali, accounting for 3 per cent of the total. “Maybe some of them are fake,” Dhami said.

Hong Kong Nepalese Federation representative Pun Prakash cited discrimination faced by legitimate Nepalis living in the city.

Lawmaker Leung agreed camps should be set up for claimants after a certain cut-off day.

Hong Kong has a backlog of 11,160 applications on asylum and torture grounds. It is understood more than half of claimants are illegal immigrants and cases take about 2.3 years to resolve.

The government expects the related expenditure this year to balloon from HK$644 million to HK$1.4 billion.

The Nepali diplomat’s suggestion for a detention camp was greeted with outrage by Fermi Wong Wai-fun, an experienced advocate for racial minorities.

“This is utterly contrary to human rights protection,” Wong said. “Leung, likewise, is manipulating vulnerable groups in society who have limited access to information for her own electoral purposes. This is shameful.”

Wong said overseas examples have shown that the key to lowering the crime rate – which was cited by Leung as a reason for setting up detention camps – is engaging the claimants more often through social service participation, rather than spreading xenophobia among residents.