Britain and China clinch deal to ease handover of colony

MICHAEL SHERIDAN

Diplomatic Editor

Britain and China yesterday reached a cordial agreement on new measures to smooth the transfer of power in Hong Kong but the Chinese Foreign Minister, Qian Qichen, remained insistent that the colony's elected legislature would be abolished.

The Foreign Minister, the first senior Chinese visitor to London for three years, was speaking during a day of talks with the Prime Minister, John Major and the Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind.

British officials were keen to stress the achievement of two objectives which should ease the handover of Hong Kong in 1997. The two sides agreed to establish formal contacts between civil servants in the Hong Kong government and Chinese officials, allowing heads of department to liaise on practical issues before the transition. They also decided that a preparatory committee should negotiate the details of the ceremonial and protocol aspects of the arrangements on 30 June 1997.

Both measures represented welcome progress, from the British point of view, after a long period of frigid relations characterised by firm statements in support of democracy from the Governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, which drew reproof from the Chinese. "These new measures are important practical steps which embed the Hong Kong government ever more deeply in the transition and should give reassurance to the people of Hong Kong," a British official said.

But there was no discussion of the inflexible Chinese position that there can be no future for the elected Legislative Council which lies at the heart of Mr Patten's democratic reforms. In elections held on 17 September, pro-democracy politicians swept to victory over candidates backed by Peking.

Britain has in the past urged China to consider the fact that the council's existence enhanced international confidence in the stability and prosperity of the colony. However, Mr Qian made it clear before arriving in London that China would not tolerate its continued role. The chief objection by Peking to the council is that it was elected under rules that were drawn up without Chinese consent. Speaking at the Foreign Office yesterday, Mr Qian dismissed the Legislative Council as "a question already discussed".

British officials took comfort from the fact that Mr Qian's visit took place at all. China was so incensed by the Patten reforms that it had put a freeze on high-level contacts with Britain. That in turn threatened British interests in the enormous and rapidly developing market of modern China.

The British and Hong Kong governments are now addressing China with two separate, if not necessarily discordant, voices. The Hong Kong government has taken up the cause of democratic institutions and the rule of law in the colony, which will continue to irritate the Chinese. The Foreign Office in London, however, will concentrate on developing trade ties and fostering relations between Britain and China.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London