Letter: British snub to new regime in Hong Kong

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Sir: There has been so much political and journalistic misrepresentation about the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong that it was heartening to read Neville Maxwell's letter (13 June). He correctly refers to "the treaty-breaking withdrawal of British co-operation to achieve a smooth transition".

This expected co-operation was embodied in the so-called "through train" agreement under the Joint Declaration of 1984 which provided that members of the last Legislative Council under the British administration would serve as members of the first Legco of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

This commitment was made entirely clear in the then Foreign Secretary's speech of 25 October 1984 about the draft agreement. Sir Geoffrey Howe stated: "It constitutes a formal international agreement, legally binding in all its parts. This is the highest level of commitment that can be given by one sovereign state to another." (Hansard Vol: 65 Col: 819).

Chris Patten, having been appointed Governor of Hong Kong in 1992, reacted arrogantly and ignorantly and, contrary to the Joint Declaration, proceeded to introduce so-called democratic changes to the existing Legco. As the "through train" arrangement had been abrogated by the UK government, the government of the People's Republic of China responded by making their own changes and introduced a Provisional Legco to operate before the transfer and for a year thereafter, whereupon the Provisional Legco will be disbanded and the first Legco of the HKSAR will be elected no later than 1 July 1998.

I am profoundly concerned about the previous government's perfidious conduct, which the Foreign Office has gone along with and which the present government appears to endorse, as I was one of the three founder members of the GB-China Parliamentary Group in the House of Commons in 1968 and served in it as chairman or secretary in the 29 years since.

Chris Patten, while an MP, was never a member of the group. Events might have been different had he bothered to join - and learnt something about China.