HC Deb 16 November 1970 vol 806 cc831-2
6. Mr. James Johnson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he is aware of the discrimination against the Chinese language in Hong Kong; and whether he will legalise the use of the Chinese language in the Colonial Assembly and the law courts.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Anthony Royle)

This is an important matter. The Chinese language is used by the Hong Kong Government wherever the convenience of the public or the protection of individual interests so requires. The Government have recently established a committee to advise on the possibilities of extending its use. The use of the English language in the proceedings of the Legislative Council is prescribed by the Standing Orders of that body, the amendment of which is a matter for the Council itself. Interpretation facilities are available in all courts of law.

Mr. Johnson

Is not the situation as intolerable for the Chinese in many cases as it would be if we did not speak Welsh in Swansea or Aberystwyth? Is the Under-Secretary aware that a deputation of the Hong Kong Federation of Students will soon be here with more than half-a-million signatures upon a petition and that I shall have much pleasure in accompanying the deputation with the petition to No. 10?

Mr. Royle

I think that the hon. Gentleman knows that I met the Federation of Students on a recent visit that I made to Hong Kong. The only statutory requirement prescribing the use of the English language relates to the proceedings of the urban council. The Council's powers are limited both in scope and in relation to the urban area. If the urban council thinks that there is scope for using the Chinese language in its deliberations I am sure that the Hong Kong Government would be sympathetic.

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