Britain will 'keep an open mind' in probe of Hong Kong political reform
Undeterred by warnings from Beijing, British lawmakers will press ahead with an inquiry into post-handover Hong Kong and will visit the city with an "open mind" seeking to meet people from all shades of politics.
Richard Ottaway, chairman of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Sunday Morning Post: "We are planning to come in December and I have no reason to think that we won't be there."
The British lawmakers launched their inquiry in July to examine the implementation of the Joint Declaration, which states Hong Kong should have a high degree of autonomy and executive power and that personal rights must be enshrined by law.
The inquiry would welcome evidence from all interested parties, Ottaway said.
"We want [to meet] those in favour of the argument, those against, those who want to put a different angle on things and I very much hope the Hong Kong government will also give evidence to us," Ottaway said. "If we have something from them, it will be of great interest to us."
A letter from China's ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, dated July 14 and released by the committee on its website last week, warned members against visiting Hong Kong. "I do not think your planned visit to Hong Kong is helpful and strongly advise you not make it," Liu wrote.
CLICK ON LETTERS TO ENLARGE
A second letter, from the National People's Congress Foreign Affairs Committee, sent to the British committee in July said it viewed the inquiry as interference in China's internal affairs and called for it to be cancelled.
The Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in London repeated the warning in a letter from director general Erica Ng.
Ottaway spoke on the eve of the first visit by United States National Security Adviser Susan Rice to Beijing since she took the job 15 months ago. Administration officials said she would raise US concerns over the stand-off in Hong Kong over electoral reform.
Ottaway said Beijing's distrust of the inquiry was misplaced, as similar reports had shown the British "open mind and fairness when faced with the evidence".
"The Hong Kong government, the Chinese government and the National People's Congress shouldn't necessarily think that we are automatically hostile," Ottaway said.
No meetings have yet been scheduled for the trip, as Ottaway said experience had shown it was better to plan closer to the date. The inquiry will hear evidence next month.