Limited progress likely in Hurd mission
BRITISH Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd and Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichan meet this morning in an attempt to break the deadlock over the Hongkong electoral arrangements, but British officials last night held out hopes of only limited progress at best.
The two ministers, whose last detailed discussions of the Hongkong issue were nine months ago, were not aiming to tie up any agreement today, said officials, trying to playing down expectations.
Mr Hurd has no new proposals to bring to the Chinese, and indeed, Britain intends to stick to the fundamentals of Hongkong Governor Chris Patten's blueprint for electoral reform, they said.
What he hopes to do is bring focus to the negotiations on Hongkong and set new guidelines for the bilateral talks which will resume in 10 days.
He intends to make clear to the Chinese Britain's central requirements regarding electoral reform, and to emphasise the need for rapid progress, said the officials.
London also wants assurance from the Chinese that China's working panel to prepare for the Special Administrative Region's preparatory committee will not affect Hongkong's administration before 1997, or undercut the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group.
Mr Hurd arrived in Beijing from the Tokyo summit meeting of the Group of Seven major industrialised nations last night, and is scheduled to leave for Hongkong this afternoon.
Hongkong was not discussed last night when Mr Hurd spoke with Mr Qian at a state banquet.
During the banquet, Mr Hurd briefed Mr Qian on the G-7 summit and delivered a copy of a human rights report compiled by Lord Howe after a trip to China.
This morning's talks, which start at 8.30 am at the Diaoyutai State Guest House and continue until around noon, will focus mainly on Hongkong.
The ministers will, in addition to electoral reform, discuss the Hongkong airport project and the progress on the JLG, which Britain feels is too slow.