Rescue at Sea
Hugh related another experience, which revealed that dodging bullets and being stabbed through the eye with a chopstick, the traditional triad method of dealing with troublesome police officers, were not the only dangers the officers and men of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force suffered.
One of his patrols brought his launch to the very southern edge of the territorial waters; it was then that they received a signal that a boat was dead in the water and drifting some miles south of them.
Hugh gave the orders and it was not long before they had the vessel in sight. It was an old single-masted sailing junk, its one sail now useless owing to the mast being broken off at mid-height; the hull low in the water. The people on board, who were either seated or standing on every possible inch of the deck, looked listless and almost disinterested as the launch approached. Lines were passed and it was quickly discovered that they were Vietnamese refugees.
There was no possibility of towing them in while still aboard the junk; it was far too decrepit and in danger of sinking. The refugees were transferred aboard the launch, where the weakest of them were taken below and given whatever medical aid was possible; all were given water and some food and treated with compassion. Hugh himself assisted some of the weaker or older people.
They were taken back to Hong Kong and delivered to the Marine Police Headquarters at Aberdeen where they were taken for medical examination and processing with the refugee unit. Hugh, his crew and launch continued with the patrol and went off duty some hours later.
It was some days later that Hugh received a telephone call from the Medical and Health Department. He was to report immediately to the infectious diseases ward at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The Vietnamese refugees he and his crew had rescued were lepers.
Copyright John Stewart Sloan – 2007 – Not For Publication