In his op-ed article, "Normalize Relations With Vietnam" {Aug. 8}, Fr. Frank Moan fails to provide a balanced picture when he refers to a report by a group of international lawyers that concluded the screening of Vietnamese boat people in Hong Kong was "fatally flawed."

These are the facts:

Vietnamese boat people who reach Hong Kong are screened to determine whether they are political refugees and thus eligible for resettlement in the West or are, as defined by international standards, economic migrants and therefore must be returned to their homeland.

Screening is an integral part of the Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA), which was not introduced arbitrarily or unilaterally by Hong Kong but was adopted by the International Conference on Indo-Chinese Refugees in Geneva in 1989, of which the United States was a signatory. The CPA stipulated that all Vietnamese boat people would have to return to their homeland except those who were determined as genuine refugees. Hong Kong has no ulterior interest in whether a person is screened in or screened out, since neither will be resettled in Hong Kong.

The screening and appeals procedures in effect in Hong Kong are monitored and endorsed by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

All new arrivals are briefed on the screening process and are given a leaflet by the Hong Kong government to supplement this briefing. The UNHCR also distributes its own leaflets.

Interviews are conducted using trained translators. The informational questionnaire that all those seeking asylum must fill out as a first step was endorsed by the UNHCR.

The UNHCR provides legal assistance and advice to the boat people and has unlimited access at all stages of the screening and appeals process. UNHCR's legal counselors may be present at any interview and can review all documents.

All asylum seekers who are denied refugee status have a right of appeal. In the case of any appeal, a Refugee Status Review Board, headed by a retired District Court judge, may require further evidence and conduct additional interviews. The UNHCR counselors may be present during any appeal hearing. Asylum seekers are always given the benefit of the doubt. Appeals must be upheld if a single member of the board decides in favor of an asylum seeker.

Even if a person is screened out, the UNHCR can still declare the person a refugee, and the Hong Kong government accepts the decision without question. It has done so with about 170 boat people. Together with the 2,000 who have been screened in and another 900 who have had their appeals upheld, the number who have been granted refugee status is more than double that forecast by the government before screening began.

The process outlined above is an exhaustive one -- deliberately so as it has been designed specifically to avoid the danger pointed out by Fr. Moan that "bona fide refugees will be repatriated against their will."

JIMMIE MARSHALL Chief Information Officer Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office New York