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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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

Recruitment Genius: Freight Forward Senior Operator

£22000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This logistics firm are looking...

Recruitment Genius: Lead Marketing Specialist

£34500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A lead marketing specialist is required ...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician - 2nd / 3rd Line

£26000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Technician is req...

Recruitment Genius: Folder Gluer Operator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: There will be a number of exciting opportuniti...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map