Letter: Hong Kong: Hurd urges cross-party unity

Related Topics
Sir: In his article (13 May) Robin Cook criticises Chris Patten for failing to visit Peking to discuss his proposals for a more democratic Legislative Council (LegCo) before announcing them in October 1992. The calculation, claims Mr Cook, was that Peking would be "sucked along in the slipstream" and obliged to accept the arrangements as a fait accompli.

As Foreign Secretary at the time, I can testify that there was no such calculation. No one imagined that China could simply be bounced into accepting the proposals. They were just that - proposals. We made clear to the Chinese that we were willing to discuss them, and to amend them if necessary. We were careful to brief the Chinese about a week before Chris Patten announced the proposals publicly.

Was it, in retrospect, a miscalculation for the Governor not to go to Peking in advance? I do not believe so. He and I thought about this carefully at the time. After exhaustive consultation with the political parties in Hong Kong in the summer of 1992, Chris Patten concluded that he had to share his thinking on the electoral arrangements with LegCo and Hong Kong before going up to Peking. There was intense interest in these electoral arrangements in Hong Kong. To have attempted to negotiate behind the back of Hong Kong people entirely in secret, maybe for many months, would have invited mounting criticism in Hong Kong. We could not have sustained this in the Hong Kong of the 1990s, as we had found out in December 1991 when LegCo had thrown out an agreement on Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal negotiated in secret.

I do not myself believe that an agreement on the elections would have proved possible even if the Governor had gone to Peking before LegCo. After all, we later had marathon talks with China about the elections between April and December 1993. Those talks ultimately foundered because China was not prepared to subscribe to arrangements for the elections which we and Hong Kong regarded as free, open and fair. It was a disagreement which resulted not from our approach but from important differences with China on issues of principle.

In the end, the Governor's proposals were enacted into law not at Westminster but by the legislature in Hong Kong. But it has been a source of great strength to Hong Kong over the last four years that these proposals have enjoyed the support not just of the Conservative government, but of the Labour Party and others across the House of Commons.

It is important for Hong Kong that this united approach to the Hong Kong issue continues in the crucial remaining months of the transition.

Douglas Hurd CH, MP

(Witney, Con)

House of Commons

London SW1

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Ed Miliband's conference speech must show Labour has a head as well as a heart

Patrick Diamond

To hear the Yes campaigners, you’d think London was the most evil place on Earth

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam