Hong Kong Ousts 28 More Boat People : Refugees: It is the second such forced return of Vietnamese since an October agreement.
The Hong Kong government forced 28 more Vietnamese boat people, including 12 new arrivals denied refugee status, to return to their Communist homeland today.
It was the second such operation since Britain and Vietnam signed a deal on Oct. 29 to forcibly return all boat people found not to be political refugees. A similar operation two years ago caused an international outcry.
Unarmed police escorted the group of men, women and children aboard a chartered Hercules C-130 transport plane for the three-hour flight to Hanoi.
The 12 newly screened-out Vietnamese arrived in this British colony one day after London reached its repatriation agreement with Hanoi on Oct. 29.
Clinton Leeks, Hong Kong’s refugee coordinator, said: “Some (Vietnamese boat people) have made it very clear that they are opposed to Vietnam. . . . Conversely, thousands and thousands of people are now volunteering to go home. People can see that the orderly program (to return non-refugees) is going to go on.
“I think it went very smoothly indeed. Clearly it went more smoothly than last time,” Leeks said, adding: “In the end, how safely and smoothly it goes is not actually in our hands. It is in the hands of the people who are being returned to Vietnam.”
The 12 were joined by 13 “double backers"--those who had retuned once to Vietnam voluntarily but traveled to Hong Kong a second time--and their three family members.
Last month, 59 double-backers were sent home under the accord. Eight men and several women had to be forced onto the plane after passing through a gantlet of 20 police officers who stood with arms linked.
The U.S. government, which opposes the forced return of boat people, has told Britain it would not tolerate violence.
Rep. Stephen J. Solarz (D-N.Y.) and California Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City) wrote joint letters to British Prime Minister John Major and the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees demanding a halt to the forced repatriation of Vietnamese boat people.
The two congressmen said in their letters that deportation will continue to attract “vehement controversy” until Hong Kong can show conclusively that its refugee screening process is adequate.
A Hong Kong government official replied: “Our screening process is under constant review, and a number of improvements have already been made. . . . As far as the program is concerned, we have an agreement with Vietnam, and we’ll stick by it.”
Hong Kong forcibly repatriated 51 Vietnamese boat people on Dec. 12, 1989, resulting in an international outcry that forced it to scrap the policy for a time.
British colonial officials hope that the London-Hanoi repatriation agreement will encourage the Vietnamese to return home voluntarily.
Robert Van Leeuwen, a refugee official for the United Natons in Hong Kong, said the number of Vietnamese boat people volunteering to return home has picked up since October.
A record 1,355 boat people volunteered to return home in November, bringing the total number of Vietnamese awaiting repatriation to 2,600.
Under a U.N. incentive plan, returnees receive an allowance of up to $60. Double-backers, who received a payment when they first returned to Vietnam, will not be entitled to further compensation.