Will refugee camps be re-opened in Hong Kong? Lawmakers ‘hijack’ debate on UN torture convention

Human rights groups express disappointment over discussion, which was sidetracked to emotive subject of asylum seekers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 June, 2016, 7:38pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 June, 2016, 9:15am

Human rights groups were disappointed after hearings on Hong Kong’s third report under the UN Convention Against Torture, which came to an end on Saturday, as individuals and several lawmakers urged the government to set up closed refugee camps in the city.

“I am disappointed and a little surprised that many lawmakers pushed for detention camps,” Thomas Franz, CEO of non-profit The Vine said. He noted that such intense calls might be related to Legislative Council elections in September.

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“We were supposed to talk about the recommendations, to hear the government responses, but the debate was hijacked on this narrow issue of the protection claimants,” Piya Muqit, executive director of Justice Centre, said. “The UN convention applies to everyone.”

“A cancer in society”, “home-made explosives” and “a nuisance to Hong Kong” were some of the terms used during the hearings to describe asylum seekers – formally known as protection claimants.

Resident Iu Tsz-san said some of those who used to take public transport were no longer able to do so because they feared crimes by asylum seekers. He also criticised the welfare support claimants got.

“Some lawmakers try to help these groups of people but they never stand up for Hong Kong,” he said

Pro-establishment lawmakers supported the idea of opening closed camps. “There are isolated islands and abandoned sites. We should make use of them,” DAB lawmaker Elizabeth Quat said.

Dennis Kwok of the Civic Party had a different opinion: “If we have land available, we should build public housing and not refugee camps.”

Security Secretary Lai Tung-kwok said setting up refugee camps would be a very complicated and costly option.