British MPs were entitled to discuss Article 23

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 December, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 December, 2002, 12:00am

Your correspondent, 'Name and Address Supplied' ('Britain still trapped in colonial time warp', Sunday Morning Post, November 24) has some odd conceptions about Britain's position with regard to the Basic Law, including Article 23.

I had thought most people in Hong Kong were fully aware that the return of the SAR to Chinese sovereignty was negotiated between Britain and China with obligations and duties incumbent upon both signatories. It is the right, obligation and duty of the British government to ensure that the terms and conditions of this mutual agreement continue to be fulfilled over a period of 50 years from July 1997. This point was clearly agreed by both parties. Therefore, it is by no means a matter of Britain acting as if it remains in a 'colonial time warp'.

Furthermore, your correspondent might not realise that Britain is a modern democracy and members of the House of Commons (all of whom are democratically elected) are at liberty to debate any subject which is considered to be of sufficient interest to the house. In any case, this particular free debate was not designed to result in any new laws which could impose any obligations on the governments of China or the SAR who are beyond the jurisdiction of the British government. The most Britain could do in the event of any violations of the joint agreement with China is to make a protest. Therefore, it is not any question of Britain being 'dictatorial' as presumed by your correspondent and there should not be any reason for 'Name and Address Supplied', or anyone else, to be concerned about the debate in the House of Commons.

As for the sentiment expressed by your correspondent that he 'cannot wait until the tide turns and swings in favour of Asia', he may have to wait for a very long time.

From Palestine to the hunger-stricken fields of North Korea; from the strife-torn villages of Kashmir to the guerrilla-infested jungles of the southern Philippines; to the illegal military regime of Burma (which the Sunday Morning Post calls Myanmar) and the repression in Iraq and the ongoing religion-based conflicts in many parts of Indonesia, there is not a lot of convincing evidence that many countries in Asia are truly ready for, or capable of, promoting this desirable objective. Unless one considers that the instigation of terrorism, mostly by Asians, promoted by cowardly fanatical fundamentalists, is a good example of bringing about this change in the tide.

The reasonable debate in the House of Commons last week should have caused little concern to your correspondent.