UK envoy flies home to discuss impasse

THE British ambassador to China, Sir Robin McLaren, is to review with top London officials the British strategy over the political row with Beijing during a visit this week.

He is scheduled to meet the Prime Minister, Mr John Major, the Foreign Secretary, Mr Douglas Hurd, and visiting Governor Mr Chris Patten on ''the way forward'' as there is no sign of a breakthrough in the Sino-British impasse.

Speaking outside the embassy before his departure, Sir Robin said: ''I'm just going back for a routine consultation. I do that from time to time. So I shall see the Foreign Secretary. I shall see the Governor and no doubt [we] will review the way forwardfrom here.'' The ambassador, who is to stay in London for a week before returning to China, said he would probably have no time during his stay to meet the Chinese ambassador to Britain, Mr Ma Yuzhen.

Meanwhile, Mr Patten, who will be in London until Saturday, said a legislature formed ''cleanly, fairly and openly'' was fundamental to the rule of law.

''I strongly believe that a credible legislature not necessarily wholly directly elected, but at least arrived at cleanly, fairly and openly, and not cooked to be acceptable to one particular party or another is fundamental to the rule of law,'' he said.

The Governor wrote in a British newspaper, The Sunday Express, that his push for clean and fair elections in the territory would not be affected by China's ''name-calling''.

Reiterating that his package was merely a set of proposals, he said: ''Sadly, China has so far chosen not to put forward any alternative ideas or constructive suggestions, but has concentrated on piling on the abuse, most of it on my head.'' He said he never regretted his decision to take up the post as Governor of Hongkong, even though he had been called ''everything from a sly lawyer to the stinking garbage of colonial history''.

''We owe it to the people of Hongkong to stick to our task, even at the expense of name-calling from Peking [Beijing],'' he said.

Saying he hoped Sino-British talks on the 1995 elections would soon resume, Mr Patten added: ''I very much hope that the argument that we are having with China at the moment will be resolved, but it is important for us all to be clear what it is all about.'' He wrote that the ''argument really boils down to whether the 1995 elections . . . will be conducted cleanly, openly, and fairly or whether they will be rigged to produce a rubber-stamp legislature guaranteed to be compliant rather than potentially troublesome''.