HK's interests may have been sacrificed: Ho

Linda Choy

THE interests of Hongkong people may have been sacrificed in exchange for better Sino-British relations, the United Democrats warned yesterday.

Vice-chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan told a City Forum Hongkong people should be cautious about the easing of antagonism between the two governments.

He said relations between China and Britain had improved after British Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd's mainland visit last week, few details of which have been released.

''The Chinese and British Governments both owe the people of Hongkong an open account of the negotiations,'' Mr Ho said.

''Now that we know so little about their discussions, it really worries me that the good atmosphere might be built at our expense.'' Mr Ho also asked the two Governments to speed up their talks by focusing on key issues.

''I hope that in the coming talks, the British and the Chinese sides really get serious and go to the core of the debate, talk about the election committee, talk about the functional constituency and the through-train problem.'' It was possible Britain might withhold its support for Hongkong's democratisation and Hongkong people should always be prepared to go into battle on their own, he said.

His worries were not shared by the conservatives, who welcomed the easing in Sino-British relations.

The Liberal Party and the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hongkong (DAB) said Mr Hurd had shown sincerity during his one-day visit to Beijing.

DAB secretary-general, Cheng Kai-nam said Mr Hurd's visit had been a friendly gesture to China.

Noting that talks between Mr Hurd and his Chinese counterpart, Qian Qichen, have been scheduled for September, Mr Cheng said the Sino-British negotiations would be able to achieve breakthroughs by then.

But he said there were many issues the talks would not cover and which should be left for the working body of the Special Administrative Region Preparatory Committee to settle.

Howard Young of the Liberal Party also said there should be progress by the time Mr Hurd and Mr Qian met.

Mr Young said it would be difficult for all the arrangements to be sorted out by then, but he expected some crucial issues to be settled.