HL Deb 16 April 1991 vol 527 cc83-4WA
Lord Gainford

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the outcome of the visit by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to China and Hong Kong from 1st to 10th April.

The Earl of Caithness:

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs paid an official visit to China from 3rd–8th April at the invitation of the Chinese Foreign Minister, and visited Hong Kong for a day at each end of that visit. This was the first visit by a Foreign Secretary to China since 1986.

In Peking my right honourable friend had two full sessions of talks with the Foreign Minister and met the Party General Secretary, the Premier, the Chairman of the National People's Congress and the Director of Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office. With the Foreign Minister he covered major international issues of common concern, including the Middle East, arms proliferation and Cambodia. They also discussed a number of bilateral matters, including commercial relations. My right honourable friend raised our concerns about human rights, including in Tibet, both with the Foreign Minister and with the General Secretary.

A central element in his discussions was Hong Kong. He told the Chinese that we wanted to intensify work on the practical issues which need to be resolved in order to ensure a smooth transition in 1997. In achieving this we need to respect two key principles.

On the one hand, Britain, China and Hong Kong need to co-operate on the implementation of the Joint Declaration. On the other, the Hong Kong Government needs to be able to fulfil its duty to govern effectively. Seeking the views of China on certain important matters, and paying close attention to those views where possible, is compatible with those principles, but the task of taking decisions rests with the Hong Kong Government.

The Chinese reaffirmed their support for the Joint Declaration and agreed that we should strengthen the work of the Joint Liaison Group. We were unable to achieve a breakthrough on the question of Chinese support for the new airport in Hong Kong. It is an economic fact that private investment in such a project is unlikely to appear unless investors are confident that it has Chinese support.

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