A matter of principle

ON the front page of the South China Morning Post, April 7, you say: ''Governor Chris Patten last night made another impassioned plea for Beijing to begin early talks on his democracy proposals.'' Yes, another.

While almost everyone is eager for talks between the two sides to begin, Mr Patten's plea makes it almost impossible for China to accept, because he invariably asks for talks on ''my democratic proposals'' - the very thing that is preventing talks taking place.

If Mr Patten really does passionately wish to resume talks, he should offer to continue where Mr Douglas Hurd broke off in 1990.

On February 12, 1990, Mr Hurd wrote to the Chinese Government, ''I agree in principle with the arrangements which you propose for an Electoral Committee, which should be established in 1995. The precise details of how this should be done can be discussedbetween our two sides in due course.'' Surely Mr Hurd's promise is clear enough.

There is nothing in the promise to indicate that the details would be worked out unilaterally by the future Hongkong Governor.

It states clearly ''between our two sides''.


Mr Lu Ping has not said so, but my guess is that talks could resume at once under the conditions proposed by Mr Hurd in 1990.

Up to that point there had been very little disagreement between Britain and China.

It is not my purpose to fight Mr Patten, but I am concerned about Hongkong, and that involves pointing out where Mr Patten has, in my interpretation of the exchanges, gone off the track.

I see no hope of an agreement unless he will begin from where the two foreign ministers left off in 1990.


It is not a matter of democracy but of principle and the honouring of an agreement.

ELSIE TU Kowloon