Ten years ago

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 June, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 June, 1999, 12:00am

LONDON (June 22): PRIME Minister Margaret Thatcher last night indicated she would be prepared to launch an international rescue mission for Hongkong if the territory faced total collapse as a result of future events in China.

Mrs Thatcher gave no details of what she had in mind but she told the Commons that if Hongkong faced a 'real refugee problem' - with its own citizens as refugees - 'we would garner the support of the whole world to deal with it'.

Her comments coincided with the arrival yesterday of senior Executive Councillor Dame Lydia Dunn.

On arrival, Dame Lydia praised Mrs Thatcher but warned that Hongkong would become difficult to govern if it suffered a massive loss of confidence.

Dame Lydia and Mr Allen Lee Peng-fei, senior Legislative Council member, are in the UK until Saturday to lobby MPs and others on behalf of the territory.

On Friday, they are due to meet Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe and Mrs Thatcher to push the case for all 3.25 million Hongkong British passport holders to be granted the right of abode in the UK.

They have a tight schedule ahead of them. Last night, they were due to meet members of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee investigating the 1997 handover as well as some members of the House of Lords ahead of today's debate in the upper house.

Dame Lydia began on an optimistic note, making her point on Britain's most popular radio show, the Jimmy Young Radio Programme which has an estimated audience in excess of two million.

She said: 'I am not here to confront Mrs Thatcher. People here have very high regard for her as a statesman and we believe that she has a very high sense of duty and responsibility.' Dame Lydia addressed the argument that people did not want to leave Hongkong and told the British audience that most people in the territory did 'extremely well' there.

'What the people of Hongkong seek is insurance in the form of a second passport so that if things go badly wrong, spilling over from China, they have a place to go.'