Major obstacles drag out JLG talks

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 February, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 February, 1996, 12:00am

ALTHOUGH negotiators claimed good progress had been made during this week's Joint Liaison Group meeting, there was no sign of any breakthrough on the major issues of right of abode, franchises of Container Terminal 9 and new mobile phone licences.

Both sides admitted that progress on these contentious issues had been minimal.

'There are areas where I've been frustrated and disappointed at the lack of agreement so far,' senior British JLG representative Hugh Davies said.

He said the lack of agreement on the CT9 project was not due to any blockage within the JLG but rather the consortiums themselves had failed to reach an agreement on how to rearrange the berths.

On permanent residency rights of Hong Kong people, Mr Davies said progress was minimal although it had been agreed to hold more expert sessions.

At a separate briefing, Chinese team leader Zhao Jihua said he hoped a CT9 proposal that was acceptable to all parties could be made soon, insisting that any proposal by the consortiums be put to the JLG.

Mr Zhao reiterated that the question of right of abode was China's business although British views would be considered before a final decision was made.

'This is a very complicated problem. To find a suitable and prudent way which can deal with different circumstances takes quite a long time,' Mr Zhao said.

The row over mobile phone licences, on the other hand, escalated after the meeting with representatives from both sides pointing their fingers at each other.

Despite agreement to hold expert talks before the end of this month, Mr Zhao criticised the British for not providing sufficient information.

China had always been positive towards solving the franchise issue but was still waiting for comprehensive information, Mr Zhao said.

No formal discussion on the licences had taken place yet as China had to do its own research.

The remarks surprised Mr Davies, who pointed out that China had kept silent on what sort of information it needed.

'It is extremely hard to accept,' said Mr Davies.

The information had been there for weeks but they (Chinese side) did not 'come and get it', he said.

The pair also locked horns on the transfer of the Hong Kong Government's archives and property with the British continuing to decline suggestions to form expert groups to discuss these issues.

The three-day session did iron out deals on the management franchises of four government tunnels: Airport tunnel, the Lion Rock tunnels, the Shing Mun tunnel and the Tseung Kwan O tunnels.

China also agreed to hold informal talks over the adaptation of laws although it was not clear what model would be used.

The next session will be held in London on a date to be decided.