Sino-British thaw over Hong Kong

EU-Asia summit: China 'recognises need to build confidence' in colony a s trade dominates agenda at expense of human rights

John Major yesterday went out of his way to defuse tension with China over Hong Kong after meeting the Chinese Premier Li Peng on the eve of the Prime Minister's highly sensitive visit to the colony this weekend.

Mr Major went into his 45-minute meeting with the Chinese Premier only hours after Peking's top official in the colony had warned the British Government against "stirring up trouble". Zhou Nan, head of the New China News Agency and Peking's de facto ambassador there, said: "We sincerely hope the British can carry out their obligations and fully co-operate ... and stir up no further trouble for Hong Kong's smooth transition."

But Mr Major made it clear after the meeting with Li Peng that he detected a marked improvement in relations between Britain and China over the past few months.

Mr Major did not disguise that there is still no convergence between the two governments over the key issues for Hong Kong democrats of a Bill of Rights and the future of the now democratically elected legislative committee for Hong Kong (Legco). Mr Major said he had told the Premier "that Hong Kong's success has been founded not only on economic success but on the rule of law and that continuity and stability are a very important part of a successful transfer in 1997."

Yesterday's statement at a New Year celebration in Hong Kong reflects the continuing irritation of Chinese officials at the Governor Chris Patten's decision three years ago to introduce democratic reforms without Peking's agreement - and the Government's stated view that an elected Legco should continue. But after his talks in Bangkok, where he is attending the Asia/EU economic summit which opens later today, the Prime Minister said that Li Peng had shown strong signs that he recognised the need to build confidence in Hong Kong in advance of the handover. Mr Major and other British officials were encouraged by confirmation from Li Peng that China would not send its own officials to govern Hong Kong after 1997.

Mr Major raised what he himself called the "sensitive" choice of chief executive to run the colony after the handover. He said that while Li Peng had not given any indication of when the choice would be made, he had shared his aspiration that the post would be held by someone "acceptable to the people of the colony".

John Major will have to tread the delicate path, on what will probably be the last visit of a British prime minister to the colony before the handover, of calming intense anxiety among many of the colony's inhabitants while not worsening relations - including trade relations - with Peking.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
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
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

Principal Arboricultural Consultant

£35000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Principal Arboricu...

Trainee Digital Forensic Analyst

£17000 - £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Trainee Digital Fo...

Planning Manager (Training, Learning and Development) - London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glob...

Asset Finance Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - ASSET FINANCE - An outstanding...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment