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Transcript of SCA's stand-up briefing

Following is the transcript (English portion) of a stand-up briefing given by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, this (April 27) afternoon, on the announcement this morning by Taiwan relating to measures concerning AP which will affect Hong Kong residents going to Taiwan:

SCA: In response to the decision by the Taiwanese authorities to quarantine Hong Kong people on arrival for ten days, I would like to say that the HKSAR Government does not believe that this measure is necessary. And we also believe that this is not in the interest of facilitating economic, commercial, tourism and other exchanges between Hong Kong and Taiwan.

We have adopted a series of effective and appropriate measures to take charge of the situation over atypical pneumonia in Hong Kong. For example, we are taking measurement of temperature of all departing passengers at Hong Kong International Airport. And as a result of these measures, governments around the world have expressed confidence. For example, the Malaysian Government has continued to offer visa-free access to HKSAR passport holders as a result of such measures being taken in Hong Kong. Through the Chung Hwa Travel Service, the Constitutional Affairs Bureau has reflected fully and consistently the situation over SARS in Hong Kong to Taiwan. We believe that the Taiwanese authorities are fully aware of the measures that we have taken. We also hope that they will review the situation as soon as possible and lift these measures which we believe are not necessary so as to facilitate the early resumption of exchanges between Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Reporter: Do you think it is fair to actually blame Taiwan for taking these precautionary measures because . . . probably they don't want the same problem happen to them. Do you think it will also strain our relation between HKSAR and the island?

SCA: When I spoke to Mr Chang Liang-jen on the phone this morning, he explained that they have taken these measures because the situation over there in Taipei is serious. They have a situation around in one particular hospital which they are finding it difficult to grip control of. I have explained that insofar as Hong Kong is concerned, we are taking effective measures to prevent passengers from boarding airplanes if they show any symptoms of SARS at all. So I believe the important thing is for us to maintain the channel of communication so that both sides know full well what the situation is on the ground. Of course, I understand they have their concerns and they are trying to take these measures to protect their community. All I am saying is that we have been taking full and effective measures to prevent passengers who are sick from boarding the airplanes. That's all.

Reporter: How long did the Taiwanese side say the ten-day quarantine would last for? How would you persuade the Taiwanese authorities to lift it up?

SCA: According to our understanding from Mr Chang Liang-jen, this series of measures about quarantining people will remain in place initially for two weeks. My hope is that if they have a complete understanding about the situation in Hong Kong and if they have confidence that we are able to prevent people who are sick from boarding airplanes then they will be able to lift these measures early and that the exchanges of commercial, trade and tourism will resume normality as soon as possible.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

End/Sunday, April 27, 2003