Diplomats met in all weathers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 December, 1999, 12:00am

Formed to oversee the implementation of the Joint Declaration a year after it was signed, the Joint Liaison Group stuck to its cardinal principle of continuity in talks - and on using the weather as a metaphor.

The 47 plenary sessions, from the first in 1985 to the last on Tuesday and yesterday, began with the diplomatic talk on weather from heavy downpours to a clear sky.

To borrow an analogy, the black rainstorm signal was raised in the aftermath of the June 4 killings that prompted the British side to call for a halt of the diplomatic talks.

It was only after six months that business returned to normal.

The post-Tiananmen era was marked by a sharp and bitter war of words and a more intense diplomatic tussle on a range of transitional issues.

In 1992, the two sides crossed swords when Chris Patten became the 'triple violator' with his proposals for political reform.

Sparks continued to fly in the remaining years leading to the handover, with disputes over the defence lands, the Court of Final Appeal and Container Terminal 9.

The financial arrangements for the funding of Chek Lap Kok took more than five years to settle.

But the most memorable metaphor was not about weather. It came in 1996 from Chinese team member Chen Zuo'er, warning that spending on welfare was speeding out of control.

'It's like a Formula One car. It will not take us too long to crash and kill all six million people in Hong Kong.'