Letter: Misplaced confidence in Hong Kong's future

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The Independent Online
Sir: Teresa Poole states ('China sounds death-knell of democracy in Hong Kong', 1 September) that the unanimous National People's Congress (NPC) vote formally sounding the 'death knell for the through train strategy' was no surprise.

I have in my files a number of assurances from HM Government and the Hong Kong Governor that the fears that I and many others had would prove unfounded. In the long run Beijing would have to accept the status quo it would inherit in 1997 since it would not wish to face up to British disapproval of the termination of the 'through train strategy' and international pressure from other important Western nations.

Even before the negative vote of the NPC on 31 August, President Clinton's much more dramatic climbdown, when American national interests were threatened by a stringent attitude towards human rights, should have made it clear to all that we could not rely on the US, and even less so France, Germany or Japan, indulging in any effective critical measures in defence of current British/Hong Kong policies being maintained after 1997.

I cannot understand what justified Ms Poole's quoted remark by a Hong Kong government spokesman to the effect that 'if in 1997 those arrangments are dismantled, those who take responsibility for that will have to explain themselves to 6 million people here in Hong Kong'. Surely all that will happen is that Hong Kong's administration will continue until new elections take place, acceptable to the Colony's new rulers.

As for what the Chinese have in mind to take the place of the elected bodies due to take office for just a couple of years before they disappear, one can safely assert that the people of Hong Kong will enjoy more democracy than they did during 150 years of bureaucratic executive British colonial governmental institutions, up to the moment when, in a kind of death-bed repentance, the British government introduced during their final years of colonial rule a modest advance towards democracy.

Yours etc,

FREDERIC BENNETT

London, WC2

2 September

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