Peking promises to rip up Patten reforms: Rival chinese power centre to undermine Hong Kong

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The Independent Online
CHINA plans to scrap the regime left by Britain in Hong Kong, and will begin work immediately on an administration to be installed in 1997, its senior official in charge of Hong Kong affairs said yesterday.

Lu Ping said that Chris Patten, Governor of Hong Kong, had 'shut the door' on Sino-British talks about the colony. China had no other choice but to take 'responding measures'.

He said the Governor would be 'condemned down the ages' as a man who had 'disregarded the interests of Hong Kong' and had 'never had any sincerity' about restarting a dialogue. It was now impossible to go ahead with talks.

Mr Patten 'regretted' the comments, while the Foreign Office in London said the Government remained firmly behind the Governor. 'We remain ready for talks at any time. The only sensible way forward is for the two sides to sit down and discuss without preconditions the points of difference between us.'

Mr Lu's comments, broadcast live in China and Hong Kong, raised the stakes in the deteriorating relationship between China and Britain over plans for political reform. But they unexpectedly calmed the Hong Kong stock market, which had anticipated worse. After dropping nearly 200 points in the morning, the Hang Seng index bounced back after Mr Lu started talking, finishing the day 21 points down at 5,958.33.

Mr Lu said China would not accept an administration elected under Mr Patten's proposals. These widen the franchise for electing the Legislative Council in 1995. He said China was preparing to organise elections after 1997 for the future chief executive and the Legislative Council, Hong Kong's parliament, under its own rules.

'So, starting from now, we have to make preparations in all areas because we do not have much time left,' Mr Lu added. 'Some call this a 'new kitchen'.' The 'kitchen' started by Mr Patten would not be acceptable to China because it did not converge with its plans for Hong Kong.

The idea of a 'new kitchen' or 'second stove' in the run-up to 1997 was raised several weeks ago. Such terms refer to the creation of an alternative Chinese power centre, shadowing and undermining the Hong Kong government's authority. It might be used to veto any long-term contracts or decisions that straddled 1997.

The recent dispute between Britain and China over terms for renewed negotiations centred on whether Hong Kong officials would take equal positions with British ones on the team.

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