Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, to a question by the Hon Abraham Shek Lai-him in the Legislative Council today (April 13):
At present, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) still owes the Hong Kong Government a total sum of $1,162 million, being the advanced costs incurred for matters related to Vietnamese migrants. Regarding the recovery of such arrears, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the number of attempts by the authorities to recover the arrears, as well as the channels and means, including correspondences and meetings, by which such attempts have been made since Hong Kong's reunification; of the details of the recovery actions taken in each instance and the amounts recovered;
(b) whether it has calculated the accrued interest on the arrears to date, and requested UNHCR to pay the interest in full; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(c) as the authorities indicated that they would continue to pursue the repayment of the outstanding advances from the UNHCR and urge it to make renewed efforts to look for donations with a view to settling the amount, whether the authorities know the countries from which such donations have been sought; whether they have requested UNHCR to report the relevant progress regularly; and
(d) whether there are any new strategies formulated for recovering the arrears; if there are, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
My reply to the four parts of the question is as follows:
(a) Since the reunification, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government (HKSARG) has written on 21 occasions (with the latest in March 2011) to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) urging for repayment of the advances incurred in matters related to Vietnamese migrants. Besides, the HKSARG has also urged the UNHCR to make repayment on over 20 various occasions. In early 1998, the UNHCR had made a repayment of $3.865 million to the HKSARG.
(b) In the Statement of Understanding signed between the HKSARG and the UNHCR in 1988, there is no provision requiring the UNHCR to pay any interest on outstanding repayments. Therefore, no interest will be calculated in respect of the outstanding advances.
(c) and (d) The HKSARG does not have information in relation to the UNHCR's appeals to international communities for donations. According to the UNHCR, they are facing substantial difficulties in appealing for donations from international communities earmarked for repaying the outstanding debts to Hong Kong. Notwithstanding, the HKSARG will continue to urge the UNHCR to make renewed efforts with a view to repaying the outstanding advances early.
Ends/Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Issued at HKT 14:06