HC Deb 01 July 1987 vol 118 cc491-2
13. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to maintain stability in Hong Kong; and what is his policy on discussing any proposed constitutional changes in the colony with the Government of the People's Republic of China.

14. Mr. Atkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy towards democratic reform in Hong Kong.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

Both we and the Chinese Government have undertaken clear commitments to maintain the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong. The excellent progress made by Hong Kong since the signature of the joint declaration on its future is evidence that those commitments have been upheld. We naturally maintain contact with the Chinese Government over a wide range of issues concerning the future of Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Government published a Green Paper on representative government in May. We hope that all sections of the community in Hong Kong will express their views on the options presented in the Green Paper.

Mr. Adley

As, for nearly 150 years, the Hong Kong constitutional position has been dominated by the proximity of China, and as the British and Chinese Governments—as my right hon. and learned Friend said—are committed to the maintenance of stability, does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that change without the overt consent of the Government in Beijing to the constitutional position in Hong Kong could be dangerous folly? Does my right hon. and learned Friend further agree that the interests of the people of Hong Kong relate far more to the substance of stability than to the shadow of experimentation?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

It is important that there should be convergence between any changes made now and the system that will be in place after 1997. None of the options set out in the Green Paper is inconsistent with that approach. Her Majesty's Government, the Hong Kong Government and the Chinese are engaged in listening to the views of the people of Hong Kong on future constitutional arrangements.

Mr. Atkinson

Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that in 1997 China will take over the system of government in Hong Kong that will be operating at the time? Does he agree that a referendum would be the best means of determining the views of the Hong Kong people towards the options in the Green Paper?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

Plainly, there will have to he continuity between the system of government that is in operation in 1997 and that which takes over immediately thereafter. Obviously, with regard to matters set out in the Green Paper, we are listening to all the representations made to us. It would be wrong of me to anticipate the outcome of that public consultation.