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LCQ4: Emergency Response Operations Outside the HKSAR

     Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, to a question by the Ir Dr Hon Raymond Ho Chung-tai in the Legislative Council today (February 23):


     In recent years, there were a number of incidents where the Hong Kong SAR Government had to arrange emergency evacuation, including the provision of chartered flights, for Hong Kong travellers in places facing sudden situations.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) given that the Secretary for Security advised at the meeting of the Panel on Security held on August 26, 2010 that there were established mechanism and procedures for handling sudden incidents, of the details of such mechanism and decision-making process, as well as the major factors of consideration in making decisions;

(b) regarding the provision of assistance to Hong Kong residents for evacuation from dangerous areas, including the provision of transport arrangements, whether the authorities concerned only provide such assistance to Hong Kong residents of Chinese nationality; if not, of a detailed list of those Hong Kong residents not of Chinese nationality who may also benefit from such emergency evacuation arrangements; and

(c) in cases where arrangements for evacuation of Hong Kong residents from dangerous areas have to be made by the Central Government, whether the Hong Kong residents who are not of Chinese nationality in (b) will benefit from such arrangements?



     Following the tsunami in South Asia in 2004, the Security Bureau ("SB") formulated a contingency plan for "Emergency Response Operations Outside the HKSAR" ("ERO") for providing assistance, in accordance with the contingency plan, to Hong Kong residents ("HKRs") whose personal safety is affected by large scale natural disasters or sudden incidents outside Hong Kong. Upon completion of a comprehensive review of the ERO in mid-2009, we have implemented 30 improvement measures, which include entering into agreements with major local airlines on reservation of certain seats ("chartered seats") or arrangements for special flights ("chartered flights") to bring back stranded HKRs when necessary.

     Our reply to the three parts of the question is as follows:

(a) The ERO sets out the three-tier contingency arrangements in details. In gist, where the incident only affects individual travellers or does not involve serious risk to personal safety, the Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Unit of the Immigration Department will provide necessary assistance directly to the requesting HKRs under Tier One. If the incident involves higher risk to personal safety or the scale of required assistance is larger, the SB will immediately activate ERO Tier Two and co-ordinate comprehensive follow-up actions through an inter-departmental co-ordinating team. Where the situation deteriorates, the SB may escalate to ERO Tier Three and activate the Emergency Monitoring and Support Centre for emergency response on a 24-hour basis until the matter is resolved.

(b) & (c) In rendering assistance to HKRs in distress outside Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region ("HKSAR") Government counts on close communication with the Office of Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in the HKSAR ("OCMFA") and, depending on the situation, seeks assistance directly from the local Chinese Diplomatic and Consular Missions ("CDCM"). The HKSAR Government has established regular liaison mechanism with the OCMFA and CDCM, and provides assistance to requesting HKRs or their relatives in Hong Kong in interactive manner through the CDCM.

     Should HKRs, irrespective of whether they are of Chinese nationality, encounter any emergency situation overseas, the HKSAR Government will render assistance through the OCMFA or CDCM. Regarding whether "chartered seats" or "chartered flights" are required to handle assistance requests, we will conduct a comprehensive assessment of the overall situation, taking into account the number of persons affected, risk to their personal safety and operation of normal flights, and make our own decision and detailed arrangement with a view to bringing HKRs home in a safe and speedy manner. Where necessary, the HKSAR Government may seek assistance from the Central Government through the OCMFA, including making use of "chartered flights" of the Central Government to help evacuate HKRs as soon as possible.

Ends/Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Issued at HKT 14:11


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