HC Deb 14 April 1993 vol 222 cc818-9
8. Mr. Anthony Coombs

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the Governor of Hong Kong's constitutional proposals for the colony.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Alastair Goodlad)

We support the Governor's proposals for broadening democracy in Hong Kong. We have long wanted to hold discussions with the Chinese Government on these proposals with the aim of achieving a smooth transition in 1997. We and the Chinese Government announced yesterday that talks on these issues will start in Peking on 22 April.

Mr. Coombs

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the fact that talks are now resuming with China vindicates the firm position taken by the Governor of Hong Kong on extending democracy in Hong Kong? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that representatives of the Hong Kong community will be at the negotiations, and will he ensure that the Chinese do not use the negotiations as a means of prolonging the process to prevent the introduction of the electoral law and the widening of democracy in the 1995 elections in the way that the Governor wishes?

Mr. Goodlad

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his opening remarks. As we have said, the talks are between the two sovereign powers. The British representative will be Sir Robin McLaren, Her Majesty's ambassador in Peking. Other officials from the British and Hong Kong Governments will participate in the talks in exactly the same way as they have in the past.

On the question of timing, we and the Hong Kong Government need to have legislation in place in good time for the district board elections in 1994 and the Legislative Council elections in 1995. We therefore want quick progress, but there is quite a lot of difficult ground to cover.

We are going into these talks with the aim of reaching an understanding, but not at any price. It remains an essential point for us and the Governor that elections held under British administration should be fair, open and acceptable to the people of Hong Kong.

Dr. Bray

Is it the Government's intention to continue to consult widely the people of Hong Kong, including their elected representatives in the Legislative Council, during the progress of the talks with China?

Mr. Goodlad

Yes, Madam Speaker.

Mr. Ian Bruce

Can my right hon. Friend tell the House whether he feels that the Chinese Government are keeping to the letter and spirit of the treaty between the Government and the Chinese Government on the handover of Hong Kong's sovereignty in 1997? Judging from China's record so far, does he believe that China will keep to the treaty after the handover? Do we have any way of renegotiating the treaty or getting out of it if we feel that China is not meeting its obligations?

Mr. Goodlad

The Chinese leaders say that they will abide by the joint declaration and the Basic Law. Under the joint declaration, we are of course responsible for administering Hong Kong until July 1997.

Mr. Rogers

We warmly welcome the recommencement of talks as laid out in the proposals announced yesterday. However, may I say that we hope that, during future negotiations, the minimal democratic propositions put forward by the Governor are at least adhered to and that, in whatever negotiations come about, the people of Hong Kong will finally have a say, rather than the British Government alone?

Mr. Goodlad

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. As I said, our aim is to reach an understanding with China on arrangements to ensure that the elections will be fair, open and acceptable to the people of Hong Kong. If we reach an understanding with China, the British and Hong Kong Governments will recommend it to the Legislative Council and it will be for it to pass the necessary legislation.

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