Hurd stresses shared interest

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 September, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 September, 1994, 12:00am

BRITISH Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd said he was determined to convince China that the shared interests of Beijing, London and Hong Kong were best served by co-operation on transitional matters.

His 'shared interest' theme was received coldly.

Xinhua (the New China News Agency) said Mr Hurd had disappointed observers by offering nothing more to improve Sino-British relations than a catch phrase.

Mr Hurd, however, had said it was not a catch phrase but a 'reality' that everyone would benefit from wider and deeper co-operation on Hong Kong issues in the years before 1997.

'It's not a question of where we make concessions or, indeed, the Chinese make concessions,' he said before wrapping up his two-day visit to Hong Kong and flying to Japan.

'It's not that kind of problem . . . If either side sits back and says, this is all too difficult, then the shared interest will suffer.

'It won't be one side successfully insults or humiliates the other. That's not an option. The shared interest will suffer. Hong Kong will suffer,' he said.

Mr Hurd maintained that he was not taking any new blueprints into his meeting with Chinese counterpart Qian Qichen in New York later this month.

He described his meeting with Mr Qian as a 'prelude' to the policy speech which Governor Chris Patten is to deliver on October 5.

'I will put to Mr Qian again our conviction and commitment. We are serious about making progress in co-operating with China for the benefit of Hong Kong.

'We are serious partly because there is a commitment in the Joint Declaration and partly because there is a shared interest.' Mr Hurd said an example of the extent to which there were shared interests was the fact that Hong Kong would comprise 23 per cent, on present figures, of the total gross national product of China.

Mr Hurd met Chinese team members of the Joint Liaison Group, including its leader Guo Fengmin, after meeting Executive and Legislative Councillors in the morning.

His first meeting with Mr Guo was not an operational one, but that he initiated it to 'emphasise direct from London the importance which we attach to the work of the JLG'.

He said: 'If Hong Kong is to proceed under the Chinese flag fully equipped with the legal and other instruments necessary for success. If Hong Kong is not fully equipped as it moves into its new status, then its prospects of success will to some extent be frayed at the edges.

'He [Mr Guo] shared the view that the JLG should not only continue but should intensify its work.' But Mr Hurd stressed that the JLG has yet to reach a stage where there would not be enough time to complete the outstanding issues before the changeover of sovereignty.

'No. We've not yet reached that stage and I've discussed this point with the Governor so I know his view.' He said the two sides needed to be 'imaginative' in the work of the JLG if present procedures needed to be adapted.

'If work can be done in a different way in order to accelerate it, in order that purely technical matters can be dealt with without a political overtone. This is something that the two sides can discuss,' Mr Hurd said.

Speaking after a 30-minute meeting at the Hong Kong Club, JLG British team leader Hugh Davies said both sides were looking at ways of speeding up the JLG business.

He said they hoped to make some progress in the meeting in Beijing next week.