Fifty-one Vietnamese migrants were pulled from their beds in holding camps, put on a chartered jet, and flown to Hanoi yesterday morning in Hong Kong's first forced repatriation of boat people. British and Hong Kong officials, ignoring last-minute pleas from the United States, Canada, and Amnesty International, said it was more humane to ship the Vietnamese home than to keep them ``endlessly.''
Several thousand more will be returned within weeks, said Hong Kong television, quoting an unidentified Vietnamese Foreign Ministry official. A government statement said officials were considering using ships.
The British colony currently houses 56,000 Vietnamese in squalid camps. Among them, 44,000 are considered economic migrants and will be sent home unless they can prove they would face persecution in Vietnam.