HC Deb 28 May 1962 vol 660 cc974-7
35 and 37. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Lord Privy Seal (1) what representations have been made to the Government of Nationalist China in Formosa over the resettlement of refugees entering Hong Kong from the Chinese mainland; and

(2) what offers of assistance have been received, or have been sought, from other countries to relieve the plight of the new refugees arriving in Hong Kong from the Chinese mainland.

41. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Lord Privy Seal what consultations he has had with the Chinese People's Republic regarding the influx of refugees from China to Hong Kong and the need for international assistance regarding food supplies for relief of starvation.

Mr. P. Thomas

Her Majesty's Government have raised the situation on the border with the Chinese People's Government but have made no representations to the Nationalist authorities in Formosa. The latter, through their representative at the International Refugee Organisation, have offered to send rice supplies. But the difficulty is not one of food. It is a question of water, already strictly rationed; of accommodation in the Colony; and of the social problems inevitable if new refugees in large numbers were added to a population a third of which already consists of refugees. The Nationalists have also offered to accept in Formosa some of the refugees. This is under consideration. The United States have indicated that they will take several thousands already in Hong Kong and I, understand that the Canadian Government are prepared to take 100 families. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has shown interest in the resettlement of refugees but no definite proposals under his auspices are yet under consideration.

Mr. Goodhart

I appreciate the efforts which the Hong Kong Government are making to deal with this international problem, but is my hon. Friend aware that many people have been depressed by the necessity to turn back so many refugees from a harsh tyranny? Will he continue to press for assistance from our friends in other lands so that if, as is possible, the flow of refugees starts again we can be more generous?

Mr. Thomas

As I said, water is the difficulty. Hong Kong does not have the facilities to accommodate these refugees, and to try to do so would cause unmanageable social problems.

Mr. Thomson

All the information which I get from Hong Kong shows that the authorities there are doing everything they can in a very difficult situation. Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that this is a fantastic state of affairs? We cannot get exact information as to why there is this sudden convulsive flow of humanity across the frontier of one of the most populous nations of the world. Does not this underline the need for Her Majesty's Government to make every effort to bring the Chinese Republic into the community of the United Nations?

Mr. Thomas

I agree that the Hong Kong authorities have behaved magnificently, and over a very long time. It is true that it is very difficult to get full information from the Chinese People's Republic as to what has been happening, but I am told by the Government of Hong Kong that the situation is rapidly returning to normal.

Mr. G. R. Howard

In view of the tragic situation posed to us in Hong Kong by these refugees and in view of What my hon. Friend has said about his approaches to the Chinese People's Republic, will he consider the possi- bility of suggesting a food and water drop by aircraft of the United States and Britain to help them out in this situation?

Mr. Thomas

No, I do not think that that could possibly be done without the authority of the Chinese People's Government. Before anything like that was done, one would have to know that it would be welcomed by that Government. I certainly have had no indication so far that they would welcome such assistance.

Mr. A. Henderson

In view of the overwhelming burden which has been placed upon the authorities of Hong Kong, has not the time come for the United Nations to take over this responsibility? Should not something be done to create the equivalent of the United Nations Refugee Organisation that operates in respect of refugees in Europe? Should not that be applied to the situation in Asia?

Mr. Thomas

It is difficult to know exactly what could be done. As I have said, the provision of food or other assistance to the people of China presupposes a desire on the part of the People's Republic of China to accept such assistance. There is certainly no indication at present that they seek it. On the contrary, their attitude so far gives us strong indications that such offers would be spurned. If they change their attitude, I have no doubt that many Governments, including our own, would be willing to do all we could to help.

Mr. Mayhew

Did not the Minister say that no concrete proposals had been put before the international refugee organisation? Why is this? Will not the British Government put forward something concrete?

Mr. Thomas

I know that the organisation is considering this matter, but, as I have pointed out, many difficulties are involved.

Sir A. V. Harvey

As water supply is one of the main problems of Hong Kong, can my hon. Friend say whether the Chinese Republic has reduced or turned off the supply of water to Hong Kong?

Mr. Thomas

From my information, I am not sure whether the water has been wholly turned off or has been reduced from the mainland of China towards Kowloon and Hong Kong.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

The Under-Secretary of State has said that he expects that offers of food might be spurned by the Chinese People's Government. Is it not a fact that they have been buying food abroad, and ought we not now, through the United Nations, to seek to give them surplus food from the countries which have great stocks which they are not now using?

Mr. Thomas

That is rather different. Certainly, the Chinese have been buying food. What I said was that the indications are that offers of gifts of food and similar assistance would be spurned by the Chinese People's Government.

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