Peking 'ready to restart talks on Hong Kong'

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The Independent Online
HONG KONG (AFP) - A resumption of Sino-British talks on Hong Kong could be announced soon, sources said yesterday, as share prices on the Hong Kong stock exchange soared in hope of a breakthrough in the row over electoral proposals.

But a Chinese source said it was unlikely that a blueprint from the Governor, Chris Patten, for widening the colony's electoral franchise before it reverts to Chinese rule in 1997 would be on the agenda of the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group (JLG).

China suspended meetings of the JLG in late November, a month after Mr Patten put forward his proposals. However, Chinese sources close to the Hong Kong office of the Xinhua news agency, Peking's de facto consulate in Hong Kong, said preparations were under way to resume the Liaison Group talks.

Thursday's announcement that the gazetting of Mr Patten's proposals - a prelude to their being debated in the Legislative Council - would be delayed saw the local Hang Seng stock market index soaring. Michael Sze, Hong Kong's secretary for constitutional affairs, said an explanation would be made soon on why Mr Patten's proposals were not published by the government yesterday, as had previously been announced.