HC Deb 15 June 1994 vol 244 cc625-7
18. Mr. Davidson

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the United Kingdom's relationship with the People's Republic of China.

Mr. Goodlad

We attach considerable importance to maintaining and building on our wide-ranging relationship with China. We have already achieved a number of successes: for instance, our exports to China in 1993 were 72 per cent. higher than in 1992. We continue to make representations to the People's Republic on human rights issues. A key aspect of the relationship is Hong Kong. Although we have not yet resolved our recent disagreement over the detailed constitutional arrangements for Hong Kong, our immediate priority is to develop a co-operative relationship in other areas, such as the work of the joint liaison group and the new airport in Hong Kong.

Mr. Davidson

Will the Government continue to press the Government of the People's Republic of China on the issue of human rights, not only in China but in the future Hong Kong? As the Government are no doubt aware, many in this country are worried that human rights in Hong Kong will be severely eroded once the colony is taken over by China. What assurances can he give us that that will not happen?

Mr. Goodlad

Human rights in China, including the situation in Tibet, are a matter of deep concern. They are on the agenda at every ministerial meeting and we and our European Union partners have repeatedly urged the Chinese authorities to adhere to internationally recognised standards of behaviour and to improve their human rights record.

The Hong Kong bill of rights gives local effect to the international covenant on civil and political rights, and the body of local human rights jurisprudence is steadily accumulating. The joint declaration of 1984 provides that the international covenant will continue to apply to Hong Kong after 1997. The joint declaration also guarantees the continuation of Hong Kong's existing legal system.

Sir Anthony Grant

Will my right hon. Friend enlighten us as to what line the Chinese Government are taking over the nuclear activities of North Korea? Does he agree that if any encouragement is given to North Korea to export nuclear arms or equipment to, say, the middle east, it could be very serious for the security of the world?

Mr. Goodlad

My hon. Friend raises a serious matter. We are in close touch with the Chinese in the Security Council. The Chinese are in favour of a denuclearised Korean peninsula, but say that the North Korean issue should be dealt with through negotiations. We believe that China has privately urged North Korea to act responsibly. It was associated with two statements by the president of the Security Council urging North Korea to co-operate with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Consultations are under way in New York on a possible sanctions resolution, after the flagrant breach by North Korea of the nuclear safeguards agreement and, of course, we hope for Chinese co-operation.

On the middle east, China is co-operating with both Pakistan and Iran on civil nuclear projects. We encourage China to behave responsibly and will continue to encourage it to join and abide by guidelines through the nuclear supplies group.

Mr. Gapes

In view of the position in Hong Kong, does the Minister support the proposals made by many people there, and by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, for a human rights commission to be established so that human rights can be protected after 1997?

Mr. Goodlad

The Government are considering the report of the Select Committee very carefully and will respond in due course.

Sir Teddy Taylor

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the serious concern in China about the new restrictions introduced by the EC on imports of items such as toys and shoes? Although I congratulate Her Majesty's Government on having voted against the decision by the EC, does he agree that it is totally inconsistent with GAIT and that it destroys jobs in China and many jobs in the United Kingdom as well?

Mr. Goodlad

My hon. Friend is right. The United Kingdom voted against the quotas package at the Foreign Affairs Council on 8 February, because we did not believe that the quotas introduced, particularly on toys, were justified. During the negotiations, we succeeded in getting some proposals for quotas withdrawn and other proposed quotas, including toys, increased, although not enough. We are pressing the Commission to show extra flexibility in the management of quotas, particularly to enable goods already contracted for before the February decision to be exempted from quota limits. We shall also seek an early review of quotas in the hope of securing increases or, better still, their abolition.

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