The government should put refugees in a closed camp outside of Hong Kong to deter “fake” refugees, former secretary of security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said to local reporters on Monday.

She said that “the problem is a lot of illegal immigrants or people who have entered [Hong Kong] immediately make baseless claims.”

“Administratively, the most effective method is to put them in a closed camp,” she added.

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Whitehead camp in 2008, where Vietnamese refugees were previously held. Photo: Wikicommons remix.

“Because space is lacking in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong government may need to get the central government to help [set up a camp] outside of the border, like in Shenzhen… If this is announced, then there will be a big effect in stopping them from coming,” said Ip.

The former Secretary for Security said that this method was used with illegal immigrants coming from Vietnam in the mid-1970s. However, laws will need to be amended if her plan is to be put into action, she added.

She also said that “there is a need to consider amending laws because Hong Kong needs to deal with the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT) and other human rights conventions that apply to Hong Kong under Basic Law Article 39.”

Conditions of refugees in HK. Photo: HKFP.

Basic Law Article 39 states that Hong Kong is bound by conventions on labour, civil and political rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights.

On January 13, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said at a press conference following the delivery of his policy address that if necessary, the government may withdraw from the UNCAT. This was to address the problem of “fake refugees” in the city who were abusing the system, Leung said.

In response, local NGOs have criticised Leung, stating that Hong Kong is not only bound by the UNCAT – which may be impossible to quit since China is the actual signatory – but is also liable under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Chantal Yuen is a Hong Kong journalist interested in issues dealing with religion and immigration. She majored in German and minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University.