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Column 1212Government are a party to the whole deal. They are a party to the lease after 1997 just as much as they are a party to it up to 1997. How does one fulfil any post-1997 obligation? If the British Government of the day consider that there has been a breach of the treaty or that there is a danger that the spirit and nature of the arrangements are being breached, they will be under an obligation to react in a number of ways. They will have to try to prevent any further breaches by making strenuous representations--diplomatic, political and international.
If the breaches continue, what ought the British Government to do then? A future British Government would be under a residual obligation, because they would be bound by a treaty signed by this Government to make arrangements to deal with the possible desire by a large number of people to leave Hong Kong. I do not support the notion of the right of automatic abode in this country at any time. If we give an automatic right of abode to the people of Hong Kong, that will not be an insurance policy, but I believe in an insurance policy of one kind--that if the treaty is breached, certain obligations will fall upon us, however unpalatable and inescapable they may be.
We must ask ourselves a simple question : does that right of abode mean that this country must just be kind, nice and enthusiastic about the people of Hong Kong and treat those who wish to leave Hong Kong as refugees? I do not believe that we should be fulfilling our obligations after 1997, however generous we were and whatever international efforts we made, if we dealt with them only as refugees. They will, of course, have all the characteristics of refugees and they will leave Hong Kong in a hurry at various times. Paragraph 4.16, which appeared in the draft report but which was eventually removed from it, said :
"A particular option which we would like to see the British Government explore within the European Community is the possibility of granting to the BDTC population of Hong Kong full British citizenship in the event of a"
breach of the treaty.
We committed a future British Government to a fundamental obligation when we signed the Joint Declaration, however unpalatable that obligation may be. However successful this Foreign Secretary may be in obtaining the support of other Governments, we shall not fulfil our fundamental obligation to the people of Hong Kong if we do not go further than giving them refugee status.
Mr. Michael Jopling (Westmorland and Lonsdale) : I agree with a great many of the points made by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands). Like him, I was a member of the Select Committee. Having spent most of May and June preparing the Select Committee report and interviewing witnesses, I was reminded time and again of the extent to which the Joint Declaration of 1984 was a remarkable document. That has been said by many people in the debate. I am sorry that my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary, because of his many duties, understandably was unable to hear the many glowing tributes to him on the achievement of the Joint Declaration of 1984.
It is a pity that when the Select Committee report was published its reception in the media was largely confined to
Column 1213the core issue of the right of abode and seemed to miss the vitally important issues that we proposed in measures calculated to increase confidence in Hong Kong, such as the strengthening of the interpretation of the law, the recommendation to speed up the process towards full democracy and the election of the chief executive, the enactment of a Bill of Rights, the aspiration that we could persuade the People's Republic of China not to station troops on the soil of Hong Kong, and our recommendations for the Armageddon scenario. One Sunday paper put our recommendations on that on its front page, but it could have published it the previous week if the media had taken the trouble to read the Select Committee report.
It was inevitable that, given the strong feelings in Hong Kong, most of the media attention was given to the right of abode. Very strong feelings have been expressed about the report and about what the Government have said on the right of abode. We have been heavily criticised in Hong Kong because the Select Committee did not recommend that the right of abode be given to a total of more than 5 million people--as it could well be in 1997. The Select Committee was divided on the issue. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) referred to the fact that the Committee was divided seven to two. The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) and the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney joined other members of the Committee in voting against giving the right of abode to all those people.
We have been told that that report was dishonourable. Let us consider what would happen if the House of Commons and the Government changed the law to give the right of abode to all current and potential holders of British dependent territory passports. We understand the background to the pleas that that should happen. We have heard the arguments about a sense of security, a fire escape or an insurance policy. We all know the argument, which I guess is true, that if the right of abode is given it would be unlikely to be taken up by large numbers of people. Although that is put to us both here and in Hong Kong, nothing can remove the basic fact that, although few people might take up that right of abode in the forseeable future, they might nevertheless do so in certain circumstances.
That brings me back to the Armageddon scenario, which has been extremely prominent in the debate. There is no question but that in a dire emergency the right of abode would be taken up. We have to ask ourselves what would happen if, in a crisis, huge numbers of Hong Kong people wanted to come here in a hurry. Frankly, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary has said, we could not accommodate them in huge numbers. My right hon. and learned Friend was right to say that it is unrealistic to suppose that we could. It is not realistic to envisage 5.5 million people wanting to come here. I do not believe that the transport facilities would allow that, but if we were confronted with even 1 million people, I do not believe that the United Kingdom could absorb them.
Mr. Jopling : I shall not give way as I have only 10 minutes. My guess is that in a cataclysmic situation after 1997, if our successors in the House of Commons were faced with that massive, unmanageable flow of people into the United
Column 1214Kingdom--if that unlikely situation should occur--they would be forced to put a stop to it. If we are asked to provide an insurance policy which would be called upon only in a time of extreme crisis, but which, as I have tried to explain, could not possibly be cashed, we have to ask ourselves whether it is not more honourable to say no now, rather than be forced to say no and renege on previous undertakings in the future. I believe that it is more honourable to say no now.
The world community now must concentrate on creating a contingency plan, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary suggested in his evidence to the Select Committee on 14 June when he said that
"it is inescapable that the United Kingdom with its special responsibility for the territory would be the country to which they would look for treatment as refugees and we would have to try and discharge that responsibility with the help of others."
That is entirely right. The Select Committee supported my right hon. and learned Friend's undertakings on 14 June. Clearly we have a duty to take the lead in preparing a plan with the international community. I do not advise my right hon. and learned Friend to try to extract numbers from countries which he felt might be helpful. If he does, he will not be successful. Most countries which would be helpful in a crisis certainly would not be prepared to commit themselves to certain figures at this stage of negotiations. The failure to get figures would create more despondency and lack of confidence in Hong Kong. It is far better for my right hon. and learned Friend not to start talking numbers but to try to evolve a plan.
It surely must be more satisfactory for Hong Kong to have a worldwide solution of the problems of cataclysm rather than a purely British solution which could not be delivered. We must not forget that if we had given a right of abode, there would be no way in which we could get a plan out of anyone. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will proceed on those lines to try to get general agreement, realising that it is probably not practicable to be specific.
Mr. Terry Fields (Liverpool, Broadgreen) : There is an inextricable link between current events in China, historical events and future events. Today's problems need to be addressed against a background of the death, persecution and repression of the Chinese working class, students and peasants, and the worldwide condemnation of the bureaucracy in China. Clearly, words are cheap and action is necessary to support the democratic process in China and give sustenance and support to the people of Hong Kong who view those atrocities with extreme caution.
In the aftermath of the repression of working class students and peasants in China, we have seen the gloating of those
anti-working-class elements in British and other societies, who say, "If this is Socialism, with tanks, guns, and flame throwers on the streets, it is little wonder that people are rising against it." We must explain the reasons why those events in China took place, and continue to take place. More important, we must differentiate between the Stalinist regimes of eastern Europe and China, which are labelled Socialist, and the reformist regimes in the West, which are also labelled Socialist. I believe that they are no more Socialist than the British Government, with their
Column 1215lack of democracy and accountability of officials and elected representatives. We need a political and economic analysis. I shall go on a journey into the past and look into the position in Russia and China. In 1949, the Chinese picked up the Stalinist model, which had been prevalent for almost 30 years in Russia, and adapted it for their own devices, with all the deformities that occurred under Stalin after the 1920-24 period. Although we applaud the kicking out of capitalism and landlordism in China, we completely condemn the lack of democracy and proper freedom for millions of people in China, just as we condemn it in the Russian states. I do not expect the Foreign Secretary to accept a Socialist analysis. I certainly do not accept his analysis. The reforms that the right hon. and learned Gentleman welcomed and that, unfortunately, my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) welcomed are the direct result of what has happened in the past few weeks and months in China. The reforms have been responsible for raising the expectations of Chinese workers, for the inability of the deformed workers' state to come through with the goods and for the repression that has followed.
Much of the recent economic growth in China was stimulated by the growth of agriculture and industry in the rural sector. Under central planning, huge sectors of heavy industry have been built up. China is now the world's fifth largest industrial producer, but the countryside still exerts enormous pressure on society. At the heart of Deng's new policies was a dramatic shift towards production in the rural areas. This marked a brief break from the overriding emphasis on industrial accumulation, the track followed by the rural bureaucracy in China since the revolution.
We must be honest--there was a recovery between 1977 and 1985 in China. National income per capita grew at an average rate of 16.89 per cent. per year, compared with 3.22 per cent. between 1966 and 1976. However, increasingly expensive inputs of investment, labour, energy and raw materials failed to produce a commensurate increase in manufactured goods, especially of the more modern and technological variety. As more complex technology demands greater skill and more initiative and co-ordination from the work force, so the problem becomes much more acute. In this sense, China's economic experience was mirroring and catching up with what was happening in the Soviet Union. Deng and his cohorts had no confidence in the working class. The conscious involvement of workers in running society- -the key to running a planned economy--would threaten the power and privileges and prestige of the ruling class, so workers were not involved in central planning.
The leadership chose the easy option--a turn towards the countryside, with policies aimed at stimulating farm production, rural industry and services. This produced a phenomenal spurt of growth in the economy, but it was only one-sided. Gains in the countryside have already rebounded on the cities. During that period, the leadership bowed to the enormous pressure for change that had fermented in the rural sector. It allowed the rapid dissolution of the collective farms, to be replaced by the household responsibility system, under which households contracted to sell a quota of produce to the state. At the
Column 1216same time, state prices for produce were raised significantly. Those measures stimulated big, all-round increases in output. In the second phase, beginning in 1985, the Government went even further. Households were granted 15-year leases on the land, with the right to reassign occupancy. The long-standing state monopoly on the purchase of grain and other major farm products was abolished. Although the state retains the right to buy quotas under contracts, there is largely a free market in agricultural produce.
Encouraged by incentives, there were dramatic increases in output, but there were contradictions. Increased agricultural output was accompanied by a massive growth in rural industry. "Specialised households" involving 70 million workers provide employment for a section of the redundant rural labour force and account for about 40 per cent. of the rural sector's gross value output.
Until 1986, the new policies appeared to be a great success. Western commentators, gladdened by Deng's turn to capitalist methods and excited by the prospect of China's boundless market, could not praise China enough. But things have turned sour. A glance beneath the surface of the market reforms shows why. According to Deng, "there are no fundamental contradictions between a socialist system and a market economy."
That comment about Socialism and capitalism being linked has been made a little closer to home. However, markets are essentially unplanned--unlike the planned economies of China and of
Russia--attracting resources to the most profitable sectors regardless of the economy's overall needs and undermining the effectiveness of central planning. There is a contradiction between the direction that Deng and his bureaucrats are taking and the basis of a workers' state.
Grain production, for instance, has declined alarmingly after reaching record levels in 1984. The effectiveness of price incentives has been undermined, partly by the increased cost of inputs, partly by more attractive prices for other crops. In some areas, local councils have insufficient cash to pay for the state's quota of grain, so peasants have stopped growing crops. The state has been forced to import increasing quantities of grain, spending $1.5 billion of valuable foreign currency on 16 million tonnes of grain in 1988. There are contradictions in a so-called planned economy venturing into a capitalist system.
Recently, the Government introduced preferential allocations for farmers-- in reality, a form of rationing, which contradicts the reliance on market methods. Naturally, farmers in those areas have responded by producing the crops for which they get the highest prices--in tune with a capitalist economy. That has meant the production of more cotton and tobacco and less grain and other foods. Shortages and higher prices have helped to accelerate the general inflationary trend, which is fastest in the cities, where the incomes of workers have not risen as fast as in the countryside. A hotch-potch of contradictory economic and political policies is prevailing in China. The workers reacted to that.
Last year, according to official figures, 35 per cent. of Chinese cities and towns suffered a cut in living standards. Inflation and unemployment rates have risen and, as a consequence, workers have moved into action. In the struggles in China, workers have accompanied students
Column 1217and peasants and reacted against the reforms that have taken place. The bureaucracy finds itself isolated and incapable of dealing with the problems that affect the people of China.
The Chinese workers' demands were exemplified by students in Tienanmen square. They want democracy. Instead of claims that it is a move to capitalism, we must listen to the brave students who went to their death singing the "Internationale". The events over the next period have already predicted by strong calls in relation to international capitalism, and a similar warning--
We warned the Government against short-term expediency. Wider and larger perspectives are necessary. Ultimately, the result of the struggles in China will be mirrored in Hong Kong, Britain and around the world. Workers of the world will unite, and the days of this and reactionary imperialist Governments around the world will be numbered.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : The time limit on the length of speeches is about to lapse. I hope that hon. Members will still make brief speeches and allow as many other hon. Members as possible to participate in the debate.
"Even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea."
I hope that the hon. Gentleman is satisfied with the conclusions that he reached.
There is a strange phenomenon in Hong Kong. The richest and smartest people live in flats on the Peak, but for much of the year a cloud settles round that Peak, completely destroying visibility. Perhaps when the House next debates the vexed question of Hong Kong and its relations with China hon. Members will have escaped from the dark cloud that was created by the appalling atrocities in Peking and will see the relationship in an entirely different and, I hope, rather better way.
In recent weeks, I have been astonished by comments in the media. One has had to check one's own moorings. It was as though Hong Kong had been towed 100 miles into the South China sea and had broken all its traditional links with the Chinese mainland. The columnists and critics who often appear on my right have suddenly appeared on my left, in shrill and emotional terms reminding my colleagues and me of our moral obligations to the people of Hong Kong in a way that I found bizarre.
I will give some examples. It is outrageous to suggest that any British Cabinet would say to the people of Hong Kong, "If you run into real trouble, millions of you can seek refuge in the United Kingdom, but we say that only to give you confidence ; for heaven's sake, do not ever try to do so." No Cabinet or political party would react in that way, and I cannot believe that any legislation framed from such decisions would get through the House of Commons. Believe it or not, one or two papers suggested that the well-educated people of Hong Kong might move in their thousands or millions to an island off Scotland, to be
Column 1218self-contained and to create wealth for themselves and the United Kingdom. It would have to be an Islay or an Alcatraz. We would have to stop them by force from coming to London and other big cities to improve their business opportunities.
A weird letter from some old fool was given prominence in the Spectator last week. It suggested that the Gurkha garrison in Hong Kong should be dramatically increased so that Hong Kong's defences could be made secure. That brought back memories for me. I served as a soldier in Kowloon in the mid-1960s. We endlessly discussed whether after we had mined some passes and blown up some tunnels we could keep the Chinese army out for 12 or 24 hours. At the latest count, the Chinese People's Liberation Army has 2.3 million personnel, and the combined forces of China have roughly 3.2 million. The reality is that Hong Kong is totally indefensible in military terms. In about 12 hours, if they wish, the Chinese could change the sovereignty of the colony. Britain has very few cards to play, and most of them are rather low.
I remember at that time a water shortage in Hong Kong, when the taps were on for only four hours every fourth day. It certainly gave a new importance to aftershave. It also reminded us of how totally dependent the geography and the physical being of Hong Kong is on mainland China because negotiations were then taking place so that we might be allowed a little more water from China's vast reservoirs. I then moved to Hong Kong island and worked as a member of the Hong Kong Government for 18 months. I paid Hong Kong income tax, which I assure my hon. Friends was most beneficial to me. It was explained to me that Hong Kong would not be like Gibraltar--a permanent colony--and that it would not become independent like Kenya or the other east African colonies but that its future lay in reverting to the Chinese mainland in 1997. That concept was entirely accepted by the people of Hong Kong at that time. Indeed, one reason why they paid so little income tax was that Britain had certain obligations, especially defence obligations, and Hong Kong was on a special route. I remember Reggie Maudling, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, arguing in Government House with the governor, Sir David Trench, for whom I was working, about Hong Kong's financial support for our defence forces. I suspect that that issue still rumbles on in the cloisters of Whitehall. I see my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary nodding his head.
I was told that the Chinese were after Taiwan above all ; that they would put up with a lot in relation to Hong Kong, but that, ultimately, Macao and Hong Kong led to Taiwan. Taiwan is linked with the civil war and has far more significance and historical importance for them.
If I am asked what Britain can do at this stage, I have to say, "Do nothing in particular, but do it well." I take an optimistic view about China. Experts say that every six years since the world war the politics of China have shifted dramatically one way or the other. Therefore, it does not seem far-fetched to expect another shift to occur during the next eight years. China's leadership has gone well beyond the biblical barrier of three score years and ten. It is a leadership despised by its own people and disliked by almost every other country.
In this day and age the rulers in Peking must acknowledge the power of radio and television. The BBC World Service has said that it has an enormous audience
Column 1219throughout China. That audience understands that elections are taking place in Poland and that in Hungary parties other than the Communist party will be able to stand. Of course, they then wonder why the Chinese people should be permanently kept from the democratic process.
I am optimistic that, between now and 1997, we will have an improved relationship with China. In the meantime, it makes sense to increase democracy in Hong Kong. I should like a Chinese-Hong Kong citizen to be elected as the chief executive, governor, president, or whatever the head of the administration is to be called. I should like HMS Tamar to be set aside for our future consul general, as the Select Committee recommended. However, those are small matters of detail when one realises that we can never really restore the confidence of the Hong Kong people because a silly speech in Peking or a foolish move by the military command can totally obliterate any feeling of well-being that may have been built up.
I encourage my right hon. and learned Friend and the Government to keep going on the path that they have set themselves. The agreement reached in 1984 was an astonishing agreement--a landmark in British diplomacy. If anyone doubts that, he should look at the concessions that the Chinese Government made to the British Government over Hong Kong. If we keep on the path that we have set ourselves and act with courage, I believe that history will show that we took the right course.
Mr. Bernie Grant (Tottenham) : I am certainly the only person present who has suffered under British colonial rule, root and branch. I was born in a British colony, so I have much sympathy with the people of Hong Kong.
Serious though the debate has been, there has been much hypocrisy. There have been two sorts of hypocrites : first, those who disgracefully tried to blame the people of Hong Kong for fighting for their rights, such as the right of abode. They said that the Hong Kong people are spending money on advertising and talking about things such as Armageddon. They sought to blame the victims for the situation in which they find themselves. That is completely abhorrent. The other hypocrites have been very sympathetic. They say, "We are so sorry about what has happened, but there is not much that we can do about it. Britain has nothing up its sleeve in terms of negotiation with the People's Republic of China, so we had better sit down and accept it". I reject thoroughly both of those views. I pay tribute to the high-powered delegation of professionals from Hong Kong, including doctors and lawyers, who are in the Gallery and who have listened to the debate. They must be disappointed at the level of debate.
Some people have said that they oppose the right of abode. I am certainly not of that view. Some people have said that, if there is trouble in China, we can take people in as refugees. But the difference between a refugee and a citizen is immense. If a problem blows up in Hong Kong, perhaps in 1998, people coming here as refugees would be put in a refugee camp with no rights and would be treated in the same way as other refugees all round the world.
Column 1220They would be lucky if they could get jobs. But a citizen, with the right of abode could come to this country any time and do what he liked. He could work and participate in the National Health Service. He would not have to wait for the British Government to give him refugee status.
It was amazing that my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) should say that if the treaty is breached we will make those people British citizens. Is he saying that, in circumstances such as occurred in Tiananmen square, the staff in the British embassy would stay up all night handing out British passports to Hong Kong citizens so that they could come to Britain the next day? That is nonsense. That could never occur. If people try to lead others down that path, that is completely wrong.
I am also worried about the position of the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman on the right of abode. I believe that Labour party policy is to repeal the British Nationality Act 1981. The residents of Hong Kong cannot come to Britain because, under that Act, they are deemed to be British overseas citizens. If the Labour party is pledged to repeal that Act, it would therefore repeal that provision, and Hong Kong people could then come to this country and have the right of abode. I hope that, when he winds up, my hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon valley (Mr. Foulkes) will explain that apparent contradiction in Labour party thinking.
I want to pick up one or two points of the Foreign Secretary. I will not be one of those hon. Members who praised him, because I said in a previous debate :
"The Foreign Secretary's contribution seemed a tiny bit complacent. He is trying to make out that all is well and that everything is under control, but my information is that people are very worried. They feel that there is a crisis of confidence in Hong Kong. There is a general feeling that the Government, having signed the joint declaration in 1984, are now about to wash their hands of Hong Kong."--[ Official Report, 15 July 1988 ; Vol. 137, c. 720-21]. I continued in that vein.
Today the Foreign Secretary also said that a Bill of Rights will soon be introduced which will incorporate all the rights and freedoms currently enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong. I welcome that, but will there be proper consultation with the people of Hong Kong before it is introduced? What mechanisms will be set in place to ensure that the majority of the people of Hong Kong--I stress "majority"--will be consulted on this issue? Will the rights in that Bill be enforceable by the courts against not only the Executive Council, but the Legislative Council? In other words, will the courts be able to declare null and void any laws that may be passed that violate the rights contained in the Bill of Rights?
The draft Basic Law contains no general right to non-discrimination, to equal opportunity or any rights against sexual or racial discrimination. Will that be remedied in the Bill of Rights that he is proposing?
I support those people who talk about 100 per cent. direct elections to the Legislative Council by 1995. A quarter of the Legislative Council should have been elected in 1988, but that was not done. It is important that 50 per cent. of the members of the Legislative Council are in place by 1991. The Government must also drop their previous insistence that reforms before 1997 must dovetail with the
Column 1221Basic Law. On the contrary, the Government should insist that the Basic Law provides for the continuation of democracy.
The events are about real people. When we debated this matter on a Friday morning in July last year few hon. Members were present and certainly no right hon. Members, apart from the Foreign Secretary, were present. The position has changed dramatically since then. People's lives are being affected daily. In this debate I have not yet seen the emotion that I saw when I met people outside the Chinese embassy. I have seen no tears in here, but I have seen tears when I have spoken to people in my constituency whose families or friends have been murdered in China. When the House begins to take this issue seriously and when people begin to talk about the problems of real people, the House will achieve some credibility.
I want to give the Home Secretary an opportunity to do something. A Chinese person living here, Mr. David Choi, who is also known as Shu Lai Ming, and who used to work for the New China news agency, has applied for refugee status in Britain. If the British Government are serious in their concern for the people of China and Hong Kong, they should grant him refugee status quickly and they should give him the travel documents that he needs so that he can meet the rest of his friends and colleagues in Paris. That is something concrete that the Home Office could do quickly.
We have not been primarily affected by the problem. We can sit here and say all sorts of nice, plausible things that sound good and read well in the newspapers. I want people to take direct action and I hope that the Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary will do something about the case I have highlighted.
I should have liked to have made several points about the draft Basic Law, the Legislative Council, and the special administrative region, but this is not the time to fine-tune our approach to such matters. This is the time to settle basic issues. One basic issue which I am ashamed has not been settled and is not being supported is the right of abode of the people from Hong Kong who are suffering or who may suffer. I hope that soon the British Government will alter their policy and allow those people into this country.
Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent) : My feelings about this issue are undoubtedly coloured by my experiences of the past few months. At Easter I went to Peking and Hong Kong and enjoyed a remarkably encouraging and optimistic visit. I met a number of elderly, senior Chinese officials who had been victims of the cultural revolution and who were undoubtedly feeling that exciting and interesting experiments were taking place in China. They looked forward to a major improvement in the Chinese economy.
I came away from those countries and left behind my stepdaughter who, for nine months of this year, has been studying in Peking and has spent a considerable time in Tiananmen square. It became wholly apparent that, whatever eventually happened to that great demonstration, it began as a small group of students who were worried about the future of their education and wanted to speak to somebody senior in the administration. They did not want to change the political system or dramatically
Column 1222alter the way in which things were done, but simply to receive some assurance about the future of education and make the point that it would be reasonable to allow people to choose their own career, rather than being dictated to class by class by the central bureaucracy. It was the extraordinary failure of anyone to come out of the forbidden city and talk to the students about their problems which gradually caused the enormous change in the demonstration. My daughter told me that throughout the demonstration people throwing stones were handed over to the police by the students. She said that anyone could walk anywhere in Tiananman square, down carefully kept paths which were remarkably clear, and that everybody was extraordinarily good-natured--far more so than normal--throughout those weeks in Peking. The idea that these people had to be shot down in cold blood or run over by tanks was such an extraordinary failure, both of will and of political skill, that it is not at all surprising that the people of Hong Kong should feel completely destroyed by it. It is a strange, and not, I hope, a significant coincidence that the Joint Declaration should have been signed by Zhao Ziyang. Where is he now?
Temperamentally, I feel very much drawn to the proposition that we should courageously gamble with the suggestion that everyone should be allowed the right of abode. However, it is perfectly clear that that is not a practical proposition, not least because of the long period over which this right would exist, and the extraordinary difficulty of policing the numbers and deciding who should, and who should not, be entitled to it.
There is a serious danger facing Hong Kong. It is not because in 1997 the Chinese Government will walk into Hong Kong with the intention of overriding the existing Government, taking over and going for the people of whom they disapprove, but because some editor, journalist or student exercising the historical freedom of speech to which he or she has become accustomed says something which cuts to the quick the thin-skinned rulers of China and is arrested for something which is not, in any shape or form, an offence under Hong Kong law. Then there will be some sort of riot justifiabily demanding the release of the detainees. At that point, the Chinese Government may well declare that the matter is an internal one concerning only their internal security. They will claim a right to suggest that the treaty has been torn up and they will take over. This is why I was especially glad that my right hon. and learned Friend said that the Hong Kong Government must be part of any decision on whether a state of emergency exists.
Since we are clutching at straws, let us also insist on much greater democracy in Hong Kong. When I was there at Easter, I was told in terms that any planter in a Somerset Maugham story would have recognised that we cannot let the people have real democracy--they would vote for the wrong people, most of them do not want it and would not know how to use it, democracy was terribly destabilising, and China did not like the idea anyway.
In fact, it was made clear to me by a number of other people that Hong Kong is ready for democracy. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) rightly pointed out, if there are already embryonic parties, the way to ensure a proper democratic Government in Hong Kong is for all who are not organised in parties to start organising. The enormous growth of pressure groups and voluntary organisations
Column 1223working effectively to put their point of view to the bureaucracy in recent years clearly shows that Hong Kong is ready for democracy and should certainly be given it soon.
My right hon. and learned Friend and the Government should not under- estimate the generosity of the British. Letters from, and personal meetings with, constituents have shown me that they do not want us to behave dishonourably towards Hong Kong. They want us to decide generously whom to receive. If we go around talking about enormous numbers all the time, we could easily generate the sort of atmosphere in which even the 30 widows whom the Select Committee rightly suggested we should receive would be unwelcome. Alternatively, if we make a generous statement about how many people this country is prepared to receive, that will enormously strengthen our bargaining position with the rest of the world. How can we possibly ask the rest of the world to be generous if we are mean?
Dr. Jeremy Bray (Motherwell, South) : The only insurance policy on offer is one that Hong Kong people will have to organise for themselves. It needs to be a massively organised operation. It needs advance parties establishing themselves in host countries, viable in themselves and making a contribution to those communities from the start. The operation needs negotiation between the Hong Kong Government and not only national Governments but local, provincial, district and city governments. It needs lines of credit organised by banks accustomed to drawing on international financial markets to finance Chinese business. It needs the establishment of overseas operations outside Hong Kong and China by all the large and many of the small businesses in Hong Kong.
Preparations on this scale entail a migration of skilled professional people considerably in excess of the numbers now moving, as every insurance policy involves the payment of an insurance premium. If every job created by a Hong Kong Chinese for a Hong Kong Chinese leads to the creation of a job for a person in the host community, it will be possible to build up these advance parties and prepare the ground for a much larger-scale migration, if that were called for.
If all went well with the People's Republic, this Chinese diaspora would be of great benefit to Hong Kong and China because of the world-wide links that it would build up. If all did not go well, it would constitute a formidable sanction in the hands of the people of Hong Kong, which would make Hong Kong far less attractive to the PRC if it neglected the rights of the people there. The timetable for democracy to elect the Government that would be needed to carry this out, as set out in the Select Committee report, is too slow. There can be direct elections this year, with three months preparation, for 50 per cent. of the Legislative Council, with 100 per cent. in 1991, with not only the election of the chief executive from the Hong Kong Chinese, but also the appointment of heads of department and every senior officer of the Executive. The people of Hong Kong have only eight years in which to organise this effort. They must get on with it now.
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Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) : In May, the official Opposition pressed the Government for a debate on Hong Kong, as we did last year, so that we could discuss the second draft of the Basic Law. If we had had that debate, we would have greatly welcomed the changes from the first draft giving greater autonomy to the Hong Kong special administrative region after 1997, agreed by the People's Republic of China, but we would have called for quicker progress towards greater democracy and we would have pressed a number of issues relating to the protection of civil and human rights within Hong Kong, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) said. Sadly, as right hon. and hon. Members have so readily said, the tragic massacre in Tiananmen square and the subsequent purge, repressions and executions that continue today have dramatically changed the nature and the urgency of the issue before us and the world. We are today debating China as much as Hong Kong. In our relations with China, the United Kingdom has a special responsibility to consider the effect of anything that we say or do on the future of Hong Kong, but the Government, and particularly the Foreign Secretary, have the balance wrong. The Foreign Secretary tends to confuse propriety and obsequiousness and to put commercial concerns higher than morality. The House should not need reminding of the brutal nature of the massacre. The dramatic media coverage brought swift and universal condemnation from all parties here. We must also remember that our support and encouragement were given to the demonstrators in support of democracy in China. It was reasonable of them to believe that our support was genuine, not fair weather support, and equally reasonable of them to expect that we would stand by them if the going got rough--and it has become really rough. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said a month ago, to acclamation from both sides of the House :
"the memory and meaning of one unarmed young man standing in front of a column of tanks in Peking yesterday will remain with the British people long after the present leadership in China and what they stand for have been forgotten."--[ Official Report , 6 June 1989 ; Vol. 154, c. 14.]
That memory and meaning remain with the British people, and they remain with the Opposition. I hope that they also remain with the Government. If they do, the Government will have no hesitation in insisting that the 48 Group trade mission, led by Sir Trevor Holdsworth, president of the Confederation of British Industry, should be cancelled. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will say that unequivocally.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) said earlier, and as I said yesterday, the Chinese Government are exploiting all these contacts for propaganda purposes. They put the telegram from the 48 Group saying that it was still coming despite the massacre on the front page of the People's Daily. How can Sir Trevor shake the hand of Li Peng while young students are still being brutally executed with a bullet through the back of the head? We must make it absolutely clear that it cannot be business as usual until the purge, the repression and the executions stop. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will confirm that the Government will help Chinese students in Britain and that that help will include extending visas for an open
Column 1225period, issuing travel documents to those whose passports expire and enabling them to help themselves financially by allowing them to work here. It is to the students here and in other countries that a future, more enlightened leadership of China is, we hope, to be entrusted.
The events in China have sent shock waves through Hong Kong, as my right hon. Friend and I saw when we visited the territory within a week of the massacre. We accept that there is a great need for action to restore confidence, but I must respectfully disagree with the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) as we do not think that it was adequately met by the tardy and dithering visit of the Foreign Secretary, even though we would not go as far as The Times leader in describing it as inept and pointless.
As the House knows, we are not in disagreement with the Government about the difficulty of agreeing to the request to grant the right of abode in the United Kingdom to almost 6 million people in Hong Kong, as some have suggested, or even the 3.25 million eligible for or holding British dependent territory passports, although we fully recognise the strength of feeling and the sincerity of those in Hong Kong who have argued that case. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup--when he was awake--rightly questioned the basis of the claim to the right of abode, or the obligation of this country to provide that right of abode.
In the time available I cannot answer all the points raised by the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown). However, in answer to one point I must tell him that when dealing with matters of immigration, right of abode and the granting of refugee status, any consideration of the economic or social usefulness of potential immigrants, such as he suggested, is not only irrelevant but obnoxious. Surely we accept people as a matter of principle and not because they might boost our gross national product or alleviate our skills shortage.
Mr. Ashdown : The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. As the Opposition, on a matter of principle, opposed the 1981 Act--the consequences of which they now support--is he saying that their opposition was wrong at the time or that their actions now are wrong on the basis of that principle?