LEGISLATORS are to be given the chance to amend any agreement between Britain and China on the 1994-95 electoral arrangements, which would then be returned for further discussion.
United Democrats chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming said after meeting Alastair Goodlad, the Foreign Office Minister with special responsibility for Hongkong, that any agreement on the electoral arrangements would be presented in the form of an understanding instead of a contract or a treaty.
Mr Lee quoted the minister as saying that if the Legislative Council was not satisfied, legislators could amend the agreement and Britain would take the changes back to discuss with the Chinese Government.
Mr Lee said the important point was whether the agreement was acceptable to the people of Hongkong.
''A memorandum is the right way to present the agreement. It is a procedural matter but we query how can they [the Government] be assured that the agreement would be acceptable to most of the people in Hongkong?'' he said.
Meeting Point legislator Fred Li Wah-ming also said a memorandum was acceptable but added: ''What Mr Goodlad is trying to do is to pacify us by saying the agreement is not set in concrete and it is up to us to amend or to reject it. But I don't think I have been pacified.'' Before meeting Legco members, Mr Goodlad said the talks had been conducted in a positive and cordial manner.
Though reiterating the importance of the through train arrangements, Mr Goodlad deflected all questions related to it, stressing that the two sides had agreed on keeping the talks confidential.
He insisted that Britain and China had agreed that neither side would publicly discuss the substance of discussions in a bid to successfully conclude the talks.
''You wouldn't expect us to breach the agreement,'' he said.
While talks were continuing, Mr Goodlad said the British side could not go on talking indefinitely as Legco should be allowed to have adequate time to pass the necessary legislation on the 1994 district board elections and the Legco polls in 1995.
Meanwhile, a senior Chinese official yesterday condemned as creating new obstacles the move to discuss the electoral bill by the Legislative Council constitutional development panel.
A vice-director of the local branch of the New China News Agency (NCNA), Zhu Yucheng, yesterday regretted the panel's move to scrutinise the 1994-95 electoral bill which outlined the political package proposed by the Governor, Chris Patten.
''We feel that such a move has created new obstacles towards the Sino-British talks . . . This is not conducive to the Sino-British talks. The British side should bear all the responsibility,'' he said.
His remarks were made hours after Mr Goodlad said legislators were free to discuss whatever they liked.
Commenting on Mr Goodlad's remark, Mr Zhu said discussing the electoral bill before an agreement had been reached would create obstacles.
Emerging from yesterday's Executive Council meeting, which Mr Goodlad also attended, Senior Executive Councillor Lady Dunn said legislators were free to discuss the electoral provisions for Hongkong.
''But at the same time, I'm sure that members of Legco, like the majority of Hongkong people, will be anxious to see the successful completion of talks between the British and Chinese sides,'' she added.
Alastair Goodlad, Baron Goodlad