Outrage over MP's comments

LEGISLATIVE Councillors and lawyers have protested to the British Labour Party about statements that it would do little to help the territory if China acted repressively after the handover.

They expressed 'shock and outrage' in a letter to leader Tony Blair which was also sent to Prime Minister John Major, Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown and Governor Chris Patten.

Legislators Emily Lau Wai-hing, Christine Loh Kung-wai and Anna Wu Hung-yuk said the statement by Allan Rogers MP was 'tantamount to a shabby repudiation of the legal and moral responsibility which the British Government has and will continue to have to ensure that the Joint Declaration is observed'.

Writing as the Lobby Group, Dr Anthony Ng and barristers Winston Poon and Gladys Li said: 'If this is Labour Party policy we can only hope for the sake of the people of Hong Kong that the Labour Party does not come to power for the 50 years following the transfer of sovereignty.' Their letter followed a report of Mr Rogers' comments in the South China Morning Post on October 5. Mr Rogers was asked how any Labour government would react to Chinese repression of human rights or the scrapping of the current three tiers of government.

Mr Rogers said: 'Any interference from outside [after the handover] is bound to be seen as an interference in their territory, which is what Hong Kong will be after 1997.' He said he was 'very dubious' about whether the British Government would be able to take up human rights abuses by China in either the Commonwealth or the United Nations.

In their letter to Mr Blair the group wrote: 'It has been our understanding that the policy of the British Government on Hong Kong has the unqualified support of the Labour Party. Such policy included the constant reiteration of the fact that the Sino-British Joint Declaration was an international agreement deposited at the United Nations and thus binding and enforceable under international law.' The group reminded Mr Blair that under Annex 11 to the Joint Declaration the British Government was also committed to co-operating in ensuring a smooth transfer by participation in the Joint Liaison Group until January 1, 2000.

As part of the promises made by the Chinese Government, Britain was also committed to the continued application of the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to Hong Kong.

The application of those covenants included reporting to the UN on the way the covenants were being implemented after the handover.

The letter chronicles a recent comment by Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office head Lu Ping that China considered it had no obligation to present such reports after 1997.

It added: 'So far the British Government has singularly failed to explain how it intends to ensure that the Government of the PRC fulfills these reporting obligations.

'However, as the continued application of the Covenants require also the continuation of reporting, there cannot be the slightest doubt but that the British Government is legally committed to seeing that this obligation is performed beyond June 30 1997 in the same way that it is legally committed to seeing that all promises in the Joint Declaration are observed by the Government of the PRC.' Mr Rogers is expected to visit Hong Kong soon - as a guest of the Government.