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LCQ7: Assistance to Hong Kong residents in distress outside Hong Kong

     Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, to a question by the Hon Ronny Tong Ka-wah in the Legislative Council today (June 8):


     It has been reported recently that a Hong Kong resident, who joined a tour to Tibet, was suspected to suffer from acute mountain sickness and died there, and it was only after the repeated efforts of the family members of the deceased that the insurance company eventually arranged to transfer the body of the deceased back to Hong Kong. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the respective numbers of request for assistance received by the SAR Government from Hong Kong residents in distress outside Hong Kong each year since the reunification of Hong Kong in 1997, with a breakdown in table form by type of requests and the assistance rendered by the authorities;

(b) in the case where a Hong Kong resident unfortunately dies outside Hong Kong, whether the SAR Government has any standing mechanism at present to help the family members make after-death arrangements for the deceased and transfer the body back to Hong Kong; if it has, of the details of the mechanism concerned; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) whether the authorities had educated members of the public or publicised in the past three years how Hong Kong residents should seek assistance from the SAR Government when they are in distress outside Hong Kong; if so, of the measures concerned; if not, the reasons for that?



     Our reply to the question is as follows:

(a) The number of assistance requests received by the Immigration Department (ImmD) from Hong Kong residents outside Hong Kong is at Annex. Having regard to the nature of requests and the volition of the assistance seekers, the HKSAR Government will render assistance, including providing information to these residents and liaising with their family members, facilitating the return of these residents, etc.

(b) In the unfortunate event that a Hong Kong resident passes away outside Hong Kong, the Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Unit (AHU) of the ImmD will, at the request of the family members of the deceased, liaise with the local Chinese diplomatic or consular mission to render assistance in obtaining the death certificate and repatriating the remains of the deceased to Hong Kong. In accordance with the information provided by the family members of the deceased, the AHU will liaise with the travel agency or insurance company concerned to render all practicable assistance. Moreover, the AHU will assist the relevant family members to obtain emergency visa to the country to attend to funeral matters, as necessary. If the incident happens in the Mainland, the Office of the Government of the HKSAR in Beijing or the Economic and Trade Office of the Government of the HKSAR in Guangdong will contact directly the relevant authorities in the Mainland and provide assistance to the family members of the deceased.

(c) The ImmD will make use of every opportunity and different channels to remind Hong Kong residents in distress outside Hong Kong to call its 24-hour hotline "1868" for assistance. Besides, information about the emergency hotline is printed on the back of each HKSAR passport. We also publicise the hotline through "GovHK" and the websites of the Security Bureau and ImmD.  Moreover, posters promulgating the hotline are displayed at various immigration control points as well as branch offices of the ImmD.  

     Since the HKSAR Government launched the Outbound Travel Alert (OTA) System in October 2009, we have reminded the public, through press releases, to seek assistance by calling the hotline as and when we issue or adjust an OTA. Before the peak of outbound travel each year (such as the Easter or Christmas Holidays), we also remind Hong Kong residents through the media to call the hotline "1868" when distressed outside Hong Kong.

     The ImmD launched the Registration of Outbound Travel Information Service in last December for members of the public to register their outbound travel itineraries and contact details through "GovHK". Every successful registrant for the service will directly receive relevant information on the "1868" hotline.

Ends/Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Issued at HKT 16:26


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