HC Deb 25 April 1984 vol 58 cc716-7
7. Mr. Moynihan

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the current state of negotiations on the future of Hong Kong.

Mr. Luce

The last round of talks with the Chinese Government was on 11 and 12 April, and the next will be on 27 and 28 April.

My right hon. and learned Friend visited Peking from 15 to 18 April and Hong Kong from 18 to 20 April. In Peking he discussed the future of Bong Kong with the Chinese Foreign Minister and with other Chinese leaders. In Hong Kong he made a statement which described our approach to the negotiations. Copies of the statement have been deposited in the Library of the House.

Mr. Moynihan

In the light of the agreement reached and the statement made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary in Hong Kong on Friday, is there now a good prospect of reaching an agreement to safeguard the continuity of the way of life of all the people in Hong Kong, both up to and beyond 1997?

Mr. Luce

The overwhelming desire of the people of Hong Kong is to ensure the continuity of every facet of their way of life. As a result of the discussions, there is clearly a desire by both the Chinese Government and ourselves to reach an agreement to achieve that.

Mr. Ashdown

Does the Minister accept that, while there is broad acceptance that the future of Hong Kong must be sorted out bilaterally, the British Government nevertheless may have a duty to provide a future for the people of Hong Kong, many of whom have fled from the Communist regime? Does the hon. Gentleman further accept that there may be international dimensions to the problem, which should be considered now?

Mr. Luce

The best way in which we can serve the people of Hong Kong is to do our utmost to reach an agreement with the Chinese Government which enables the way of life of the Hong Kong people to continue as it is now. That includes their freedoms, their legal systems and their commercial way of life. That is the best contribution that we can make, and we shall do our best to achieve it.

Sir Peter Blaker

Is not one of the main concerns of many Hong Kong people the fact that if we reach a satisfactory agreement with China it is important to obtain an assurance that it will last for a long time? Is not the important question that of durability? It is important for the maintenance of confidence in Hong Kong and for its prosperity. Did my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary press that point on the Chinese Government?

Mr. Luce

My hon. Friend knows a great deal about the Hong Kong question. I assure him that my right hon. and learned Friend pressed this matter very strongly. As my hon. Friends knows, the Chinese Government have stated that any agreement reached should last for at least 50 years from 1997. Obviously, it is important to seek an agreement between our two Governments of an international nature that is as binding as possible. However, at the end of the day, the best guarantee is the self-interest of both Governments to achieve something that allows the people of Hong Kong to continue to flourish.

Mr. Hal Miller

Does my hon. Friend accept that there is widespread support for any effort to ensure that the agreement is reduced to writing and is capable of being recognised internationally? Many people in Hong Kong have experience of previous undertakings given in 1949 being ignored. Did not many people leave China for Hong Kong because the constitution was not respected? Have not many more people been born in Hong Kong and brought up to expect those personal freedoms which we have a responsibility to ensure are continued in best measure?

Mr. Luce

One of the values of my right hon. and learned Friend's visit to Peking last week was that he was able to discuss these matters very fully with the Chinese and to explain to them that, while we both want agreement, it is important to understand that the Chinese people living in Hong Kong must feel that their way of life, as they know it and appreciate it, can continue, and that whatever agreement is reached gives as much assurance as possible that that will take place.

Mr. Healey

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that hon. Members on both sides of the House have tried to follow the negotiations carried out by the Foreign Secretary during his visit to the Far East? On a matter of this complexity and delicacy, the official Opposition feel that it would be convenient if the Government would agree to a debate on the matter as soon as possible after the Foreign Secretary returns.

Mr. Luce

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his comments. I hope that the House will have an early opportunity to debate this important subject after my right hon. and learned Friend's return.

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