Thatcher's 3-day trip a 'vintage move'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 July, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 July, 1996, 12:00am

Margaret Thatcher, who signed the 1984 agreement to return Hong Kong to China, intends to be in the territory next July 1.

'She will be there for days one, two and three of the Chinese administration,' The Sunday Times quoted an aide as saying.

He said Lady Thatcher had no intention of acting as an observer to prevent any human rights abuses following the takeover. 'We feel sure that the Chinese will behave immaculately.' Her supporters view the move as vintage Thatcher and suggest she will deter any abuses by China's authoritarian rulers during the opening days of their reign.

The paper said her decision had caused consternation at the British Foreign Office, fearful that Beijing might use her as a propaganda tool to suggest British approval for China's plans to scrap the Legislative Council.

The Chinese authorities are said to welcome the prospect of having Lady Thatcher as an early guest. There are suggestions she will be invited to Chinese ceremonies to mark the start of communist rule.

Denis MacShane, Labour MP for Rotherham and formerly a frequent traveller to Hong Kong, was furious at Lady Thatcher's plan.

'She will be there in person to wave goodbye to democracy. When she signed away Hong Kong the Chinese ran rings round her, and she failed to entrench safeguards for the people.'