Why Did A Hong Kong Man Spend More Than Three Months at HKIA’s Terminal “Transiting” To Vietnam?

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News reports in Hong Kong revealed that HKIA currently still has several passengers more or less stuck in transit limbo due to travel restrictions including a very strange case of a HK citizen who was on his way from Canada to Vietnam in late March of this year.

The man arrived on Cathay Pacific and – despite holding a Hong Kong passport – refused to leave the airport after his flight to Vietnam got cancelled, instead stayed in the airports transit zone since mid March.

It’s unclear whether the individual has kept his HK nationality hidden from authorities as he voluntarily elected to stay within the confines of the airport for over three months. Foreign nationals and non-residents are excluded from entering Hong Kong since spring but of course he could have gotten in without an issue as a local citizen.

According to South China Morning Post there are other cases as well that are still hiding out.

A traveller who spent three months living inside Hong Kong International Airport amid the travel lockdown is a Hongkonger and has entered the city without needing to undergo quarantine, the Post has learned.

The individual departed Canada on a Cathay Pacific flight heading to Vietnam in March but ended up remaining at the airport due to the border restrictions. The traveller entered the city on Thursday.

The Department of Health said he tested negative for the virus, adding his quarantine period was already over when he entered Hong Kong, as he arrived in the city in mid-March. …

The Hongkonger was one of several high-profile cases that raised questions about the government’s handling of transit passengers this month. More than a dozen travellers were left inside the airport with nowhere to go due to the border restrictions and airlines mistakenly allowing customers to take flights despite the border closures.

It is unclear why the man repeatedly refused to leave the airport. The airline was required to care for him, providing him with free food and drink during his stay.

A source close to the Immigration Department said that generally, a passenger who wished to remain in the airport’s transit area was not required to present for arrival in the city or go through immigration procedures.

Lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho called the situation “very peculiar”.

“There are many scenarios but it ultimately boils down to what travel document he is holding,” Tam said. “The Immigration Department needs to explain this. Did they know all along that he was a Hongkonger or did they just find out recently? I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that three months went by before they found out. Did he hide his identity or were they incapable of handling the situation?” …

A British Airways passenger who lives in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, is still refusing to leave the transit zone. The 63-year-old woman has refused all offers to be flown to the mainland via London for free.

Indeed a very strange case. The passenger came from Canada and was supposed to go to Vietnam yet he held at least the Hong Kong passport. It would be interesting to find out if he also has other nationalities, for example Canadian.

I can help but wonder if the error fare Cathay sold on January 1, 2020 was in any way involved given the Vietnam-North America pairing.

Considering that someone in the middle of a global pandemic chooses to stay at the airport instead is mind boggling. Is the man actually homeless or destitute?

Conclusion

Hopefully someone from the authorities or car workers had a word with the man to make sure he is alright when he left the airport. Just to provide some support and to figure our if there are underlying issues.

I’m more than surprised Hong Kong just lets these people be and go about their day for months on end. In Singapore he’d been more than likely given at least some scrutiny from airport authorities and immigration given a local law that prohibits “misusing” the transit area. Late 2018 there was also a case in Malaysia where a Syrian refugee was stuck for 7 months in Kuala Lumpur Airport before finally given asylum and passage to Canada.

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