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
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Lois Pryce... Life Without a Postcode. Lois lives on a boat with her husband.. Registering to vote in the election has prooved to be very difficult without a fixed residential post code. (David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing