Reform talks deadlock still unresolved

CHINA and Britain remained deadlocked over the key principle of whether the 1994/95 electoral arrangements should dovetail with the Joint Declaration, the Basic Law and previous accords reached between the two sides, it was revealed yesterday.

Sources said both sides still did not see eye-to-eye over the basic principle at the first round of Sino-British political reform talks which ended in Beijing last week.

A source said it would be difficult to go into the nitty-gritty of the 1994/5 electoral arrangements if the two sides were still poles apart over principles.

The New China News Agency (NCNA) last night hinted that the two sides were divided on whether the ''three accords'' should become the basis for talks.

''People believe that all existing problems and differences can be solved if the two sides stick to the three principles. Otherwise, there's nothing that can be discussed,'' the NCNA said.

''Although [we] are yet to know the results of the talks, people hope that the talks are conducted on the basis of the three principles,'' it said in a signed article, which was carefully-worded to avoid breaching the confidentiality rule of the talks.

The agency said the ''degree of difficulty of the negotiations'' should not be under-estimated.

The source said London has also been unable to stick to the principle that the talks were a matter between two sovereign countries, and that there was no role for Hongkong.

''If they accept the principles of 'three accords', the details could be worked out smoothly. But that's not the case now.

''They are still insisting that [Governor] Chris Patten's political proposals are in line with the 'three accords.' ''Under their [the Patten] blueprint, the total of direct elected seats will be 39 instead of 20. It has already violated the Basic Law. Therefore, the most important thing now is to first agree on the principles. Otherwise, there's nothing to be talked about,'' the source said.

Beijing is adamant that the Legislative Council does not have the power to overrule any agreements reached between the two governments in the future.

The source also attacked Hongkong officials taking part in the talks, saying they had been trying to give the impression that they were part of the ''British team''.

Citing the differences over the principles, the source said it would be ''very difficult'' for the two sides to come to an early settlement on the electoral arrangements.

Following the second round of talks, which opens in Beijing tomorrow, it is expected there will be a two-week break before negotiations can be resumed as Mr Jiang Enzhu, the Chinese negotiator, will be accompanying the Foreign Minister, Mr Qian Qichen, on a trip to Europe.