Lawmakers urge govt to bring back Hongkongers stranded in Hubei

February 14, 2020 14:09
Hong Kong authorities are facing growing calls to bring back citizens who have been stuck in China’s Hubei province, which has been under a lockdown following the coronavirus epidemic. Photo: Reuters

Lawmakers from both the two main political camps in Hong Kong have urged the government to make arrangements to bring back the Hongkongers stuck in China's Hubei province which has been under a lockdown following the coronavirus crisis.

The government has a responsibility to ensure the return of Hong Kong people who have been stranded in mainland China due to the travel and other restrictions there, Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan Suk-chong said.

At a press conference on Thursday, Chan, who acts as convener of the pan-democrats' meeting group of lawmakers, said travel arrangements should be made for Hongkongers who are in urgent need of leaving Hubei -- the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak -- and for those who want to return to Hong Kong.

She urged the government to verify the identities of the people and confirm their physical health status before bringing them back to Hong Kong in batches.

The call came a day after the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said 10 of the several hundred Hong Kong people stuck in Hubei had been infected with the novel coronavirus

Local authorities were not allowing the 10 infected Hongkongers to leave the province, the government said. 

Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho, a former pilot, suggested the government consider sending civilian aircraft or even helicopters to bring back those who are underage or physically weak.

Hong Kong has plenty of resources that can be used for bringing back the citizens stuck in China, she said, while noting that most of the passenger transport services have been suspended across the border.

Accusing the administration of being slow in responding to the crisis, another lawmaker, the Democratic Party's Helena Wong Pik-wan, pointed out that many foreign governments had used chartered flights to take back their citizens in Hubei.

She slammed the government for its perceived indifference, saying authorities were not paying heed to the flight of fellow citizens.

Lack of sufficient quarantine facilities seems to be an excuse for not helping the stranded Hongkongers, Wong said.

Offering suggestions, the lawmaker said the government should requisition the three hotels in the now-suspended Hong Kong Disneyland Resort for quarantine purposes. Also, modular housing could be put up on the site reserved for the resort’s second phase development, and the facilities then used to accommodate the Hubei-stranded people for quarantine upon their return, she added.

Separately, pro-establishment lawmaker Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, who is a vice-chairman of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, asked Hong Kong’s Wuhan Economic and Trade Office to arrange transport for the stranded Hongkongers as well as provide them with adequate protective gear before they can arrive safely at an assembly point prior to travel to Hong Kong on charter flights.

While urging the government to send chartered aircraft as soon as possible, the alliance’s chairman Lo Wai-kwok said the government should carry out strict health monitoring and quarantine work on those boarding the chartered planes, including providing sufficient protective gear for all passengers and crew members, so as to prevent on-board cross infection.

Lo also suggested requisitioning cruise liners and Disneyland resort’s hotels for accommodating the returnees during the quarantine period.

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