OP Midwife 1991 - Shek Kwu Chau

Vietnamese Boat People Detention Centre

 

Sgt KAN Kwai-ying and Cpl LEE Siu-heung

 

To us and the other twenty Volunteers who were manning the Shek Kwu Chau Detention Centre, 16th July 1991 was a day not to be forgotten. The Regiment had been tasked to man this detention centre because there were more Vietnamese Boat People (VBP) arriving in Hong Kong than the Police or the Correctional Service officers could cope with. In the past, this camp on a lonely outlying island, had been a drug rehabilitation centre.

Each squadron was tasked with manning the camp for a week with one troop on duty at a time. Troops were changed around every 48 hours. We in Women’s Troop had a different role. We had to do as many duties as we could because of the large numbers of women and children.

At 1815 hrs on 16th July, we were shocked to suddenly hear that two groups of about 300 Vietnamese were battling each other outside Huts B and C. They were armed with homemade weapons and anything that they could throw. We tried to stop them with persuasion but this did not work. We were then forced to fire rounds of Tear Gas to attempt to separate them and calm things down.

When this too proved unworkable, we called for police assistance. Helicopters from the RHKAAF flew units of the PTU into the Camp with Marine Police launches standing off the island. In all it took ourselves and about 70 policemen to bring things back under control after four hours. Tpr Lee was in the Ops Room. Quite early on two injured Vietnamese were brought in covered in blood. She applied first aid but the wounds were large and covered in mud and rubbish. Soon more and more casualties were brought in as the battle raged. Tpr Lee was the only one who could be spared and she tended the wounded as well as reported back on the radio. Very soon, she had exhausted her supply of field dressings but she remembered from her first aid lessons that in an emergency, the plastic covers to the dressings could be used. This was an emergency and soon these were all but used up. In all there were 16 serious casualties mostly with head injuries, though thankfully no Volunteer was injured.

Although the battle had raged only for 4 hours, it seemed like an age to those of us involved. Very few of us had experienced this type of situation before but the actions through this very unhappy incident showed the depth of discipline and the strength of the training in the Volunteers.