Canada's Foreign Minister, Lloyd Axworthy, said yesterday he had received private 'assurances' that China would respect civil rights in Hong Kong after July 1. He said Beijing was committed to holding elections to replace the provisional legislature early next year but had given no indication on when or how they would be conducted. 'The feeling about the transition in Hong Kong is that the commitments so far will be lived up to,' Mr Axworthy said after talks with Premier Li Peng and other senior leaders in Beijing. 'We received assurances that there would be legislation enacted right after July 1 to ensure there are ordinances or regulations in place to ensure basic freedoms exist,' Mr Axworthy said. The Foreign Minister did not comment on how the pending legislation would compare with the Bill of Rights and other statutes to be abolished. 'We also received assurances that election planning under the provisional legislative council is starting already,' Mr Axworthy said. The Foreign Minister expressed confidence that China would change its policies on human rights issues. China's Ministry of Justice said this week at least 2,026 people were in prisons for 'counter-revolutionary' crimes, including pro-democracy dissidents Wang Dan and Wei Jingsheng . The ministry described the number of jailed activists as 'very limited', noting that 'public awareness of building socialism with Chinese characteristics' had reduced the need for further trials.