INTRODUCTION: Senior Chinese officials have stated that Peking is in no hurry to settle the question of Hong Kong's future with Britain.
GV Junks in harbour.
GV Police in launches around junks. (2 SHOTS)
SV PAN Chinese on board junks. (3 SHOTS)
SV & GV People on boats ZOOM OUT police talking to them. (4 SHOTS)
SV People on boats and police launch sets off across harbour (2 SHOTS)
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Background: INTRODUCTION: Senior Chinese officials have stated that Peking is in no hurry to settle the question of Hong Kong's future with Britain. Speaking to Reuters on Tuesday (31 March) -- the eve of a visit to China by British Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington -- the officials reassured investors in the colony that their interests wouldn't be harmed whatever the solution. Britain's lease on the Hong Kong New Territories expires in 16 years. Meanwhile the number of illegal Chinese immigrants entering the colony has been increasing.
SYNOPSIS: An armada of boats on sunday (29 March) brought the biggest invasion of these immigrants for years. By the evening, 60 Chinese junks had been rounded up and surrounded by police launches. They kept a close watch in case any of the boats -- crowded with thousands of men, women and children - tried to land under the cover of darkness.
The Hong Kong authorities were warned by the Chinese government that the junks were on their way and that there might be as many as 25,000 people on board.
Hong Kong is not certain what to do with this large influx of refugees and has not allowed them to land. The count of immigrants has now crept up from 300 to almost 700 a month. Half a million of them are estimated to have entered the colony in the past few years. With the growing economic strain, Hong Kong decided last October that illegal immigrants without identity cards would be sent back to China.
The situation was aggravated on Tuesday (31 March) when thousands more illegal immigrants arrived in Hong Kong following rumours of an earthquake in the neighbouring Chinese province of Guangdong. They now join thousands of others who may be repatriated to the Chinese mainland.