Letter: British snub to new regime in Hong Kong

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Sir: At this eleventh hour, is it out of the question that British ministers attending the the Hong Kong hand-over ceremonies on 30 June could reconsider their decision immediately thereafter to leave the territory, absenting themselves from the immediate consequential formalities, in contra-distinction to the attitude to be adopted by the great majority of other visiting heads of government, including several Commonwealth ones?

The Government's argument for justifying such a negative, counter-productive and embarrassing course of action is that the provisional Legislative Council is an illegal one, because it allegedly breaks an agreement that a "through train" body would continue in office until 1999. Yet Peking long ago made it abundantly clear that Chris Patten's so-called reforms, without their prior consent, nullified the "through train" concept.

There has been much criticism in the media that the new chief executive has been imposed on Hong Kong by Peking. In fact he was elected, with a substantial majority, over two other candidates, by a representative group of Hong Kong citizens. This, if not an example of Western-style democracy, is wholly in contrast with the way that all previous governors, including Chris Patten, have been chosen by the imperial power without any consultation at all with the people of Hong Kong.

As for the new "draconian" laws that the new Legco are to reinstate on 1 July, these contain only provisions in accord with those the British maintained up to Mr Patten's arrival on the scene, as essential to ensure good order and the rule of law, during the last 150 years.

Sir FREDERIC BENNETT

Aberangell, Gwynedd

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