Patten flies to London as HK temperature rises

THE Governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, arrives in London this week for consultations amid signs that China is seeking to isolate Britain in their dispute over democracy in the colony.

The temperature of the debate was turned up yesterday by Hong Kong's Financial Secretary, Sir Hamish Macleod, who said the authorities would press ahead with the colony's dollars 20.3bn ( pounds 13.6bn) new airport despite failure to agree financing plans with the Chinese. The Legislative Council, given the choice of mothballing the project or injecting enough finance to allow the next round of contracts to be awarded, appeared to be favouring the latter option, he said.

Sir Hamish added that he hoped the Chinese, who have hampered the project for nearly two years, would begin to talk once they realised it gave them no leverage over other issues. 'It hasn't affected the political talks one inch,' he told Reuters news agency.

At the weekend, however, a senior Chinese trade official warned that Britain's trade would not remain unaffected by political differences over Hong Kong. 'Bilateral economic and trade relations can hardly escape damage from an unco-operative and unfriendly Britain,' Tong Jiemin, deputy director- general of European affairs at the Trade Ministry, told the official China Daily. Such an implied threat has not been heard for nearly a year, and comes when France is seeking to repair relations with Peking.

The French government, which a year ago agreed to sell Taiwan 60 Mirage fighters worth pounds 1.3bn, last week issued a joint statement with China in which it promised not to sell any more weapons to the island, and reaffirmed that it recognised Peking's claim to Taiwan. The Chinese Foreign Minister, Qian Qichen, will meet the French Prime Minister, Edouard Balladur, in Paris next week, and Mr Balladur will visit China in March. According to political sources in Paris, the sight of Chancellor Helmut Kohl returning to Germany last November with nearly pounds 2bn worth of contracts convinced the French that they could no longer afford to be frozen out of the Chinese market.

'We appreciate that we are a bit more isolated as a result of the French decision,' said a British source, 'but despite all that has happened in the past year or more, there is still no sign of discrimination against British business.'

Last month, after seven months of talks ended in stalemate, Mr Patten introduced the first part of his political reform. In his meetings with John Major and the Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, this week he is expected to discuss the shape and timing of the second part, which is likely to be far more controversial since it deals with the crucial 1995 Legislative Council election. China has already threatened to reverse Mr Patten's reforms when it takes over in Hong Kong, but appears to be holding its fire until it sees his next move.

Britain is likely to feel the brunt of Peking's assertiveness, because the Chinese appear to have changed tack in dealing with the US. President Jiang Zemin is said to have told a congressional delegation at the weekend that China would 'make an effort' to meet Washington's concerns on human rights.

Peking had apparently misinterpreted the US desire for more contact as a signal that its human rights policy was purely for domestic consumption. The Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, will repeat his message to Mr Qian in Paris next week: without clear progress on this issue, China cannot expect its 'most favoured nation' trading privileges to be renewed later this year. Peking, which relies on its huge trade surplus with the US to sustain its economic boom, now appears to be heeding these warnings.

Asia's Great Game, page 16

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
Life and Style
love + sex
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United 1 player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot