HC Deb 13 March 1972 vol 833 cc31-5
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Alec Douglas-Home)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I wish to make a statement.

Discussions with the Government of the People's Republic of China about an exchange of ambassadors have been successfully concluded and a communiquéon this matter was signed today in Peking.

When early last year we decided to resume discussions with the Chinese Government on this subject we told them that if an agreement on an exchange of ambassadors was reached we would be prepared to withdraw our consulate from Taiwan. This we shall now do.

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the text of the communiquéwhich we have agreed with the Chinese Government.

Mr. Healey

First, I express to the right hon. Gentleman how glad we are on this side of the House that the chargés d'affaires will now be raised to the status of ambassadors, and we express the hope that this step will inaugurate an increasingly friendly period of co-operation with China, both politically and economically.

Do the Government maintain the position, taken by the British Government at the Cairo conference, that Taiwan is a part of China? Has he any plans for visiting China himself in the near future? Will he consider urgently the possibility of sending an official trade mission to China?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his general welcome for this move. The right hon. Gentleman asks whether Taiwan is part of China. I would express the position as follows: the Government of the United Kingdom acknowledge the position of the Chinese Government that Taiwan is a province of the People's Republic of China. Both the Government of the People's Republic of China and Taipeh maintain that Taiwan is a part of China. We held the view both at Cairo and at Potsdam that Taiwan should be restored to China. That view has not changed. We think that the Taiwan question is China's internal affair to be settled by the Chinese people themselves.

I should be glad to go to China but I could not go in the immediate future because, I am afraid, my programme is too heavy.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Does my right hon. Friend expect that these arrangements will expedite procedures in the case of arrests of British subjects in the Republic of China in future, if such should arise? Secondly, what in practice will be the arrangements for looking after British interests in Taiwan in future?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

The Australians have kindly agreed to look after British interests in Taiwan. As for expediting procedures in relation to people who are still in Chinese custody, I think that this new agreement will create a better climate in which we can talk to the Chinese.

Mr. Pardoe

I welcome this announcement. Bearing in mind the British Government's recognition of Taiwan as a province of the People's Republic of China, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has had or intends to have any discussion about the long-term future of Hong Kong?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

That question does not arise.

Mr. Gorst

Is my right hon. Friend's statement likely to improve the chances of my constituent's sister, Mrs. Gladys Yang, who has been in detention for four years in China, being released or at least allowed to communicate with her family? Might it expedite her release from this so-called "investigation" which the Chinese authorities say her case is being subject to at the moment?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

As I think my hon. Friend knows, we have done all we canto achieve Mrs. Yang's release. My reply to him is the same as my reply to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), that we must not raise hopes in these matters, but we hope that the new climate will lead to the possibility of further talks on this subject.

Mr. Dalyell

I am delighted. First, may I pay tribute to a number of Foreign Office officials here in London and in Peking whose skilful spadework have made this agreement possible, in particular Mr. John Denson, a former chargé d'affaire, whose mastery of the Chinese language gave him great esteem in Peking but who had to retire, unfortunately, a little early from that post, owing to temporary ill-heath.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether we can now get on to the subject of the possibility of B.O.A.C. having a direct air route to Peking? If we are to have the technical and trading relationships which many of us would like to see, it requires an easy exchange of people, particularly in, for example, the nuclear power and motor industries or in many other trade sectors which might now seem to be possible.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his tribute to officials, who have been very good in this matter. I did not tell the House in my statement, but Mr. John Addis, who is well qualified for the post, will be our first Ambassador in Peking. Of course we want the best possible communications with the People's Republic, but the hon. Gentleman's question about B.O.A.C. and trade had better be put to the Minister concerned.

Sir Gilbert Longden

While welcoming my right hon. Friend's statement, may I ask whether he has any information as to the wishes of the people of Taiwan proper other than the Chinese Nationalists there?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I do not have any indication of the wishes of the people of Taiwan. I can only repeat what I have said—indeed, I cannot add to what I said to the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey)—that we think that the Taiwan question is China's internal affair to be settled by the Chinese people. This is in accordance with the views which the British Government took both at Cairo and at Potsdam.

Mr. Pavitt

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that, in addition to the trade links which we used to have with China, there were wide links between the British co-operative movement and the industrial co-operatives in China, which were fostered by Sir Stafford Cripps during war-time and which lasted for some years until Chiang Kai-shek lost power? Will the right hon. Gentleman look again at this area of contact between the British people and the Chinese people through trade unions, co-operatives and other people's organisations in helping to achieve future friendship and understanding?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

We look to all opportunities of contact between the British and Chinese peoples.

Mr. Tilney

Although our trade with Taiwan is small, may I ask my right hon. Friend for an assurance that the withdrawal of our consulate-general from Taiwan will not prevent our trade continuing with Taiwan?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I hope that will be so. Our consul was never accredited to the Government of Taiwan. He was accredited to the local provincial authorities. I hope that the trade will increase. West Germany, for example, rapidly increased her trade in Taiwan without consular representation.

Mr. Walters

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind the need to give the maximum support to British industry as soon as possible in its endeavours to enter the Chinese market before the United States, whose foreign policy has been so infinitely more dilatory than ours, moves in?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

We shall certainly give any support we can to our industry in relation to trade with China. Lately there have been signs that industry is interested, and so are the Chinese Government.

Following is the communiqueé:


Both confirming the principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-interference in each other's internal affairs and equality and mutual benefit, the Government of the People's Republic of China and the Government of the United Kingdom have decided to raise the level of their respective Diplomatic Representatives in each other's capitals from Chargeé d'Affaires to Ambassadors as from 13th March, 1972.

The Government of the United Kingdom, acknowledging the position of the Chinese Government that Taiwan is a province of the People's Republic of China, have decided to remove their official representation in Taiwan on 13th March, 1972

The Government of the United Kingdom recognise the Government of the People's Republic of China as the sole legal Government of China.

The Government of the People's Republic of China appreciates the above stand of the Government of the United Kingdom.