Hurd soothes fears over HK

BY COLIN BROWN

and MICHAEL SHERIDAN

Britain made a series of conciliatory gestures to the Chinese government yesterday in an effort to give fresh impetus to negotiations over the future of Hong Kong, which reverts to China within less than 800 days.

The Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, told the House of Commons that he hoped for renewed co-operation with Peking following recent talks with China's Foreign Minister, Qian Qichen. Mr Hurd also sought to calm nerves about the future of China after the death of its paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping. Britain believed China's "unity and integrity" would continue, he said. The Hong Kong stock market, already jittery over the uncertain pace of Sino-British talks, fell this week on rumours that an announcement of Mr Deng's demise was imminent.

Mr Hurd's speech coincided with a renewed offer by the Governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, to meet Lu Ping, China's senior official for Hong Kong affairs. Mr Lu has not seen Mr Patten since the Governor enacted democratic reforms without Peking's consent. "He knows perfectly well that whenever he would like to do so I am available to meet him," Mr Patten said.

The British overtures were completed by a newspaper article in which the Foreign Office minister Alistair Goodlad said the return of Hong Kong would "mark a major step towards reunification" for China, thus implicitly acknowledging Peking's aspiration also to bring Taiwan back under its rule.

Mr Hurd told MPs that Britain and China should work together on legislation to establish a court of final appeal in Hong Kong. He said the establishment of the appeal court to take over the role performed by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council was of "great practical and symbolic significance" for the future rule of law in Hong Kong.

He also wanted to see greater certainty on the adaptation of Hong Hong law with China's Basic Law. "We need to accelerate the slow business of localising to Hong Kong legislation previously extended to the territory by Order in Council," Mr Hurd said.

British officials said a lack of confidence over the future legal structure was creating difficulties for business and could damage Hong Kong's economy.

There was little dissent from the Government's approach to the hand-over in 1997. Robin Cook, Labour's shadow Foreign Secretary, raised Opposition concerns about human rights. Sir Edward Heath, the former prime minister, welcomed the assurance by the Foreign Secretary that the Government did not believe China would break up, like the former Soviet Union.

"Right at the top now they believe we are trading on future Chinese instability," said Sir Edward, who has close links with China. "They say, `You think we are going the same way as Russia and you are delaying things as long as you possibly can.' "

The Government wanted to concentrate on immigration and nationality arrangements for Hong Kong in the run-up to Chinese rule.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on