JLG 'vital to transition'
Fanny Wong and Chris Yeung
BRITISH and Chinese officials are adamant the Joint Liaison Group (JLG) will remain the major vehicle for the resolution of transitional issues after the inauguration of the Preparatory Committee.
The assurances came despite fears among some British and government officials that Beijing might take unilateral action on unresolved matters through the powerful committee and the chief executive's team.
A senior Beijing official said: 'The JLG has a clear term of reference that it deals with the transitional matters. There is a need for co-ordination in some issues, but that does not necessarily mean duplications.
'They deal with the issues from different perspectives.' The official said JLG delegates would not pass sensitive information to the committee.
A source close to the British side was optimistic that Beijing still wanted to resolve such issues as defence, the Budget, handover ceremonies, archives and the civil service through the JLG.
'If they want a successful transition they need to do it through the JLG,' he said.
'Although they might not be interested in some issues, they will still be on the agenda.' The source said the pace of work in the JLG had sped up slightly since October when Chinese Vice-Premier Qian Qichen visited London. 'There's no tendency to ease off,' he said.
A senior government source said the JLG was still the best vehicle to take quick decisions on important issues: 'Lots of it are matters of political judgment.
'[Beijing] might not want to make the issue overly complicated by putting it to the Preparatory Committee for discussion.
'Our strategy is still to maintain pressure by trying to get results through the JLG.' But a Western diplomat said he anticipated the Preparatory Committee would act unilaterally on issues on which the two sides were unable to agree.
There is still a backlog of work to be cleared by the JLG, including work on laws, air services agreements, and international rights and obligations.