Rifkind faces wall of silence from Qian
Mr Rifkind said he "detected a defensiveness with regard to the human- rights question", and when the British side raised concerns about the imprisonment of dissidents in China, and the suppression of Tibetan Buddhists, Mr Qian "chose not to respond".
The one-and-a-half-hour meeting took place on the margins of a conference of Asian and European leaders in Singapore, and this evening the Foreign Secretary will travel on to Hong Kong at a more than usually anxious time for both the Government and the colony. Mr Rifkind may yet have to cut short his visit if he is summoned home by the Conservative whips for a Commons vote.
In Hong Kong, meanwhile, democratic politicians and organisations including the Hong Kong Bar Association have expressed outrage at recommendations by the Peking-backed Preparatory Committee which would repeal human-rights guarantees.
"These are important matters which could do grave damage in Hong Kong," said Mr Rifkind. "I have expressed our view that these measures are very foolish and very unwise."
A British official suggested earlier in the week that the Chinese might be persuaded to step back, and that there was "still something to play for".
"We have seen in the past that a number of issues raised at meetings of this kind sometimes do not get an immediate response, but do have an impact on Chinese policy over the weeks and months thereafter," said Mr Rifkind. "I can't be certain that will apply in this case but the exercise has been useful in the past and I hope it will be on this occasion."
A spokesman for Mr Qian, however, denied that such matters were up for negotiation. "This is a closed matter so there is no defensiveness whatsoever."
The one glimpse of a concession came in a discussion of the legislative body which will eventually be formed under the Chinese during 1998. Many in Hong Kong have assumed that this would be similar to the recently elected Provisional Legislature - a tame and undemocratic body, composed only of individuals sympathetic to Peking. Mr Qian said during the meeting, however, that anyone would be allowed to stand for election to it including, by implication, some of Peking's harshest critics in the Democratic Party.
Mr Rifkind has tried to use the Singapore meetings to build up international pressure on China not to interfere with Hong Kong after its reversion at the end of June. The French, Japanese and German foreign ministers have all raised the subjects in bilateral meetings with Mr Qian, and British sources speak of "an insurance policy" in the event of a crackdown after Hong Kong's reversion.
"After 30 June, we will not be the sovereign power," said a senior source. "We can't send a gunboat or a task force and our means of leverage are limited, but one of them is international pressure."
That's some guestlist! Stunning images show huge dynastic wedding between Ultra-Orthodox Jewish families which attracted 25,000 guests
Man and woman arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder victim of Woolwich machete attack, named as Drummer Lee Rigby
'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
Video: Woolwich attack - man with bloodied hands and knife addresses camera
Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, the mother-of-two hailed as a hero for confronting Woolwich attackers, thought: 'better me than a child'
- 1 Man and woman arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder victim of Woolwich machete attack, named as Drummer Lee Rigby
- 2 'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
- 3 Grace Dent: I’m not sure how these people can avoid being called ‘bigots’. And the more ‘civilised’, the worse they are
- 4 Woolwich murder: They killed, then they performed - these men should be starved of our attention
- 5 Woolwich attack: The EDL will seek to exploit this evil crime for their own evil ends
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.