HC Deb 25 January 1971 vol 810 cc27-9
17. Mr. Onslow

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many British subjects are still detained in China; and whether he has had any recent communications from the Chinese authorities about them.

Mr. Anthony Royle

There are four British subjects believed to be detained in China, all for some three years. They are Mrs. Gladys Yang, Mrs. Epstein, Mr. Shapiro and Mr. Crook. Mrs. Yang is married to a Chinese citizen; the remaining three previously worked for the Chinese Government and have lived in China for many years. We are not certain that any of them wish to leave China. The Chinese authorities have provided us with no information about them, despite repeated representations. The most recent representation was on 23rd December, 1970.

Mr. Onslow

While naturally welcoming the release of Mr. Johnson, may I ask my hon. Friend to agree that there cannot be any real improvement in relations with China until it becomes routine for the Chinese Government to provide us with information about all British subjects who are missing and until they will give us consular access to those who are detained? Is he aware that this is as true for Hong Kong subjects as it is for United Kingdom subjects?

Mr. Royle

We are naturally anxious that the Chinese Government should give us full information about detained people. Our relations with China have shown a marked improvement in the last year. During 1970 seven British subjects, none of whom worked for the Chinese Government, were released by the Chinese authorities. We have left the Chinese Government in no doubt about our wish for a further improvement.

Mr. Rankin

Can the hon. Gentleman give any figures about the number of people who get into China via Hong Kong? Would it be unfair to suggest that it is courteous of the Chinese to keep some of these people when they succeed in getting in?

Mr. Royle

I am not quite sure what the hon. Gentleman is getting at. Perhaps he is implying that people are crossing the border at Lo Wu in pursuance of their normal business. If he will table a Question on the subject, I will try to find out the figures for him.

Mr. Gorst

Would my hon. Friend give an assurance that he will continue to press the Chinese authorities, because he knows that my constituent's sister, Mrs. Yang, has been the subject of a complete black-out of information for a very long time? Is he aware that this is causing almost intolerable distress to my constituent and her family, particularly as her mother recently died without having received any information about Mrs. Yang?

Mr. Royle

We will continue to press the Chinese authorities, but my hon. Friend should bear in mind that we are not sure whether Mrs. Yang is detained or whether she wishes to leave China.