Todd Salimuchai

Last updated

Todd Salimuchai (born c. 1970) is a self-described Thai or Burmese former opium poppy farmer, best known as the only man to ever attempt an aircraft hijacking at the Hong Kong International Airport. [1] [2]


Early life

Like many members of tribal peoples in border areas of Southeast Asia, Salimuchai has no identity documents attesting to his birth date or place of origin, making him effectively stateless. Any information about his early life comes only from his own statements. He says he is a Lisu tribesman from a 200-person village called Hazen in the Golden Triangle on the border of Thailand and Myanmar. [1] His parents died when he was young, leaving Salimuchai and his two elder brothers as orphans. [3] His native language is Lisu; he learned some English as a young man from American soldiers and other travelling expatriates as a child. He also says he learned how to fly small helicopters. Though he claims not to have used drugs himself, his village was heavily involved in the drug trade, growing poppies for sale to a Hong Kong drug lord who would come with payment once every year. [1]

One year, instead of cash payment, the drug lord brought a check for US$800,000. The villagers reluctantly and suspiciously accepted the check, but banks refused to encash it. The village elders decided to send Salimuchai and another young man to Hong Kong to search for the drug lord and resolve the issue. Salimuchai and his accomplice were flown by helicopter to a port and became stowaways on a Hong Kong-bound freighter. Disoriented after their landing in Hong Kong and unable to speak the local language, they searched for the drug lord fruitlessly for three months while staying in a safe house. Salimuchai was eventually arrested during a police identity check in Wan Chai. [1]

In and out of prison

Following his arrest, Salimuchai was sent to Victoria Prison. Hong Kong Immigration Department officers interviewed him, but due to his limited English made little headway in determining who he was or whence he came. They ordered his continued detention pending removal to "a place to be specified". [4] That place turned out to be mainland China; in early 2000, he was placed on a bus with mainland immigration offenders and sent to Shenzhen, told by police officers that he was going home. [1] [4] While in the mainland, he claims to have suffered electric shock torture and beatings over a period of forty days in two different jails. [1] He was also given a Chinese name. [4] Afterwards, he was deported back to Hong Kong, and again detained. [1]

In May 2000, Salimuchai was released from immigration detention. With just HK$2,000 which his friend had left for him at the safe-house, Salimuchai had no way of putting a roof over his head. [1] He ended up homeless, sleeping on the street and collecting paper and cans in Wan Chai to sell to recyclers and earn money for his survival. [4]

Hijacking attempt and reimprisonment

On 31 July 2000, Salimuchai took a fake pistol and went to the Hong Kong International Airport, planning to hijack a helicopter and fly himself back home. [1] Upon arrival, he snuck in using a loading dock staff entrance, forced his way through security into the airside area, and took a female cleaner hostage. [5] However, he saw that the helicopters were far away and much larger than the ones he knew how to fly. [1] Quickly changing his plans, he instead boarded a Cathay Pacific aircraft. The aircraft, which had just arrived from Taipei as flight CX451 and was being prepared to fly to Paris and then London as flight CX261 at 11:35 PM, was empty at the time. [5] [6] After a two-hour siege, Salimuchai surrendered to police. [1] No one was injured in the course of the incident; however, 372 passengers' travel plans were disrupted, and Cathay Pacific had to pay for 363 of them to be put up in local hotels. [6]

At the time, security guards at Hong Kong International Airport checkpoints were unarmed; in the aftermath of Salimuchai's hijacking (and another incident the next day in which a 19-year-old airport worker carried a fake gun and five bullets into the airport's cargo centre in what he claimed was an attempt to play a prank on a colleague) it was proposed that they be armed. [7] Salimuchai was sent to Tsuen Wan District Court. [7] There, he pleaded guilty to charges of false imprisonment and using a fake firearm with intent to commit an offence, and in February 2001 was sentenced to five years in prison. In prison, he came into contact with many former drug users, and developed a sense of remorse, as he felt he had contributed to their problems. In 2004, he wrote to the Immigration Department to declare that he wanted to integrate into the Hong Kong community. He attained early release in December 2004 with the aid of a guarantor. [1] [8]


Salimuchai's troubles did not end with his release from prison. The Immigration Department took his fingerprints and tried to verify his identity with various countries in order to arrange for his deportation, but failed. 17 countries refused him entry as an asylum-seeker, mainly due to his criminal record. [9] He furthermore applied for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance from the Labour and Welfare Bureau, but was rejected as he was not a Hong Kong resident. [4] A friend of his from prison initially offered him a place to live and economic support, but Salimuchai broke off contact with him when the friend tried to draw him back to a life of crime. He applied for refugee status at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who gave him temporary support while his application was pending. [8]

However, in 2005 the UNHCR rejected Salimuchai's application because he did not qualify as a refugee; he was not in fear of persecution in his home country, but instead actively sought to return there and was blocked because he could not convince any country to grant him admission. [1] After the rejection of his refugee claim, the UNHCR cut off their support for Salimuchai as well. Prohibited from working by the Immigration Department, Salimuchai relied on charity from private benefactors (including an unidentified high-level government official) who gave him about HK$1,000/month, as well as local non-governmental organisations such as Inner City Mission, which provided him with free meals. [1] [8] He applied to the Immigration Department for permission to work, hoping to be able to repay the kindness of his guarantor, but was rejected. [8] In November 2005, he appealed the rejection directly to then-Chief Executive Donald Tsang, but his petition went unanswered. [1]

Salimuchai's case attracted attention from various local and international organisations such as the Belgium-based Human Rights Without Frontiers; human rights lawyer Mark Daly began working with Salimuchai on his case. [1] In late 2007, Salimuchai filed a suit in the High Court against the immigration department. The suit, the first of its kind to be brought in Hong Kong, alleged inhumane treatment and violation of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance (1991) and the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons. [10] He also sought to overturn the prohibition against employment that had been imposed on him. [4] The immigration department for their part complained that Salimuchai had been uncooperative in telling them where he was from, hindering their efforts to aid him. [1] In April 2008, Salimuchai reached an amicable settlement with the government, in which the Immigration Department gave him permission to take up employment. [11]

Related Research Articles

Transport in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has a highly developed and sophisticated transport network, encompassing both public and private transport. Based on Hong Kong Government's Travel Characteristics Survey, over 90% of the daily journeys are on public transport, the highest rate in the world. However, in 2014 the Transport Advisory Committee, which advises the Government on transportation issues, issued a report on the much worsened congestion problem in Hong Kong and pointed at the excessive growth of private cars during the past 10–15 years.

Kowloon Place in Kowloon

Kowloon is an urban area in Hong Kong comprising the Kowloon Peninsula and New Kowloon. It is bordered by the Lei Yue Mun strait to the east, Mei Foo Sun Chuen and Stonecutter's Island to the west, a mountain range, including Tate's Cairn and Lion Rock to the north, and Victoria Harbour to the south. With a population of 2,019,533 and a population density of 43,033/km2 in 2006, it is the most populous urban area in Hong Kong. The peninsula's area is approximately 47 km2 (18 sq mi).

Hong Kong International Airport Main airport in Hong Kong

Hong Kong International Airport is Hong Kong's main airport, built on reclaimed land on the island of Chek Lap Kok. The airport is also referred to as Chek Lap Kok International Airport (赤鱲角機場) or Chek Lap Kok Airport, to distinguish it from its predecessor, the former Kai Tak Airport.

This is a list of aviation-related events from 1980:

Songshan Airport Commercial airport and military airbase in Songshan, Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei Songshan Airport is a mid-size commercial airport and military airbase located in Songshan, Taipei, Taiwan. The airport covers an area of 182 hectares.

Shek Kong Airfield airfield in Sek Kong, Hong Kong

The Shek Kong Airfield, ICAO: VHSK), formerly RAF Sek Kong or Sek Kong Airfield, is an airfield (airbase) located in Shek Kong, New Territories, Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Certificate of Identity

The Hong Kong Certificate of Identity (CI) was a formal travel document and passport, issued by the Hong Kong Government's Immigration Department until 30 June 1997. It is no longer possible to possess a valid CI as a travel document, as all CIs have expired by 30 June 2007, though most CI holders should be eligible to hold the HKSAR Passport.

Immigration Department (Hong Kong) Hong Kong government department

The Immigration Department of the Government of Hong Kong is responsible for immigration control of Hong Kong. After the People's Republic of China assumed sovereignty of the territory in July 1997, Hong Kong's immigration system remained largely unchanged from its British predecessor model. Residents from mainland China do not have the right of abode in Hong Kong, nor can they enter the territory freely, both before and after 1997. There are different regulations that apply to residents of Macau, another Special Administrative Region of China. In addition, visa-free entry acceptance regulations into Hong Kong for passport holders of some 170 countries remain unchanged before and after 1997.

Airport Security Unit (Hong Kong) unit of the Hong Kong Police Force

The Airport Security Unit (ASU) formed in 1977 as the Special Action Squad, are the airport police of the Hong Kong Police Force tasked with the security of the Hong Kong International Airport.

Hong Kong–Macau Ferry Terminal Ferry terminal and heliport in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

The Hong Kong–Macau Ferry Terminal is a ferry terminal and heliport, centrally located in Hong Kong. It is also known as the Macau Ferry Terminal, the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Pier or the Shun Tak Heliport, and has an ICAO code of VHSS.

North Lantau Highway road in Hong Kong

North Lantau Highway is an expressway forming part of Hong Kong's Route 8, linking Hong Kong International Airport and Lantau Island with the rest of the territory. The road has three lanes in each direction for its entire length with full-width hard shoulders for emergencies and breakdowns. The speed limit is 110 kilometres per hour (68 mph) for most of its length, the highest of any road in Hong Kong.

Regal Hotels International (RHI) is one of the largest hotel groups in Hong Kong. Regal Hotels International Holdings Limited is a company incorporated in Bermuda and listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Civil Aviation Department (Hong Kong) department of the Hong Kong Government

The Civil Aviation Department (CAD) is the civil aviation authority of Hong Kong, headquartered at Hong Kong International Airport. The department is responsible for providing air traffic control services to all aircraft operating within the Hong Kong Flight Information Region. It reports to the Transport and Housing Bureau of the Hong Kong Government. The current Director-General of Civil Aviation is Simon Li Tin-chui.

Queensway Government Offices building in Peoples Republic of China

The Queensway Government Office Building is a skyscraper located in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong. The tower rises 56 floors and 199 metres (653 ft) in height. The building was completed in 1985. It was designed by Mr K.M. Tseng of the Architectural Services Department. The Queensway Government Offices, which stands as the 54th-tallest building in Hong Kong, is composed entirely of commercial office space. The roof of the Queensway Government Office Building is adorned with a dragon logo, the symbol of Hong Kong; the structure was added in 2002.

Immigration Tower Building in Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Immigration Tower is a skyscraper located in the Wan Chai District of Hong Kong completed in 1990. The tower rises 49 floors and 181 metres (594 ft) in height. Immigration Tower, which stands as the 93rd-tallest building in Hong Kong, is composed entirely of office space. The building houses government offices, principally those of the Immigration Department.

Vallejos and Domingo v. Commissioner of Registration was a court case against the government of Hong Kong by two foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) seeking permanent residence and the right of abode in Hong Kong. Because of its subject matter it was commonly referred to in the media as the FDHs' right of abode case (外傭居港權案). Evangeline Vallejos and Daniel Domingo were two of five applicants who in various groups filed three right of abode lawsuits in 2010; the ruling in Vallejos' case was expected to be a precedent for the other two.

Outbound Travel Alert System is a travel advice system for residents of Hong Kong who are travelling overseas. Based on risk assessments by the Security Bureau of the Hong Kong Government, it advises travellers from Hong Kong of the potential risk to personal safety in other countries or regions in the current environment.

<i>Stand News</i> Hong Kong non-profit online news website

Stand News is a free, not-for-profit pro-democracy online news website based in Hong Kong, founded in December 2014 as the successor of House News. It primarily focuses on social and political issues in Hong Kong.

2019 Prince Edward station attack August 2019 incident in Hong Kong

The 31 August Prince Edward station incident, or 31 August MTR station incident, refers to an incident in which Hong Kong police allegedly indiscriminately attacked passengers during their arrests of returning home alleged protesters in Prince Edward station, on the night of 31 August 2019, after a protest was held that same day. The event was described as the police version of the 2019 Yuen Long attack, and the police have been criticized as acting like terrorists. Rumours have been circulated that several protesters were beaten to death at the station, but the police have rejected allegations. However, many people kept up a mourning vigil outside one exit of the station.

Rupert Timothy Alan Dover is a British-born Assistant Commissioner and Regional Commander of Kowloon West with the Hong Kong Police Force.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 "The tale of a man with no country", The Standard, 10 July 2006, archived from the original on 21 October 2011, retrieved 28 May 2011
  2. "金三角人球告入境處", The Sun, 30 November 2007, retrieved 28 May 2011
  3. Lo, Alex (24 December 2004), "Strange tale of poverty and drugs ended in airport siege; Believe it or not, asylum seeker's claims of adventure are impossible to verify", South China Morning Post, retrieved 28 May 2011
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Lost in Hong Kong: the sad saga of a mountain man", The Standard, 30 November 2007, retrieved 28 May 2011
  5. 1 2 "香港機場或增設武裝保安員", BBC News, 1 August 2000, retrieved 28 May 2011
  6. 1 2 "對疑似挾持事件•國泰感謝旅客諒解", Sun Travel, 2 August 2000, retrieved 28 May 2011
  7. 1 2 "新機場禁區或駐武裝保安", Sing Tao, 3 August 2000, retrieved 28 May 2011
  8. 1 2 3 4 "《機場客運站》真人版 Real life version of The Terminal", Ming Pao, 30 November 2007, retrieved 22 December 2011
  9. Lo, Alex (24 December 2004), "Hijack drama mystery man in diplomatic limbo", South China Morning Post, retrieved 25 May 2011
  10. "通識路路通:流落異鄉成賤民 無國籍人家歸何處", Wen Wei Po, 10 December 2007, retrieved 28 May 2011
  11. "金三角人球 滯港8年終獲准工作", Ming Pao, 13 April 2008, retrieved 28 May 2011