Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Tenth Report



142. There has been long standing parliamentary interest in Hong Kong, and long standing interest on the part of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Our predecessors reported twice on Hong Kong,[357] and this is the second Report on Hong Kong by this Committee.[358] The Government responded to Parliament's interest in Hong Kong by undertaking to present six monthly reports on Hong Kong, starting in January 1997. In July 1997 we decided to monitor, on an ongoing basis, the observance of the Joint Declaration. For this reason, as part of our China inquiry we visited Hong Kong. Here we had the opportunity to meet a range of political opinion in the Executive and Legislative Councils, as well as local and British journalists.[359] We are grateful to all those we met in Hong Kong.

143. As we noted above,[360] United Kingdom-Chinese bilateral relations have improved since the handover of Hong Kong. Lord Powell told us, from a business promotion point of view, that "Particularly with the resolution of the Hong Kong issue, we found the bilateral relations [with China] have become easier."[361] While we welcome this improvement, we believe that the United Kingdom has important obligations to Hong Kong, and interests there, which should in no way be overlooked in the interests of the relationship with China. Since our last Report the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group—the main opportunity for discussing the implementation of the Joint Declaration with China—has been wound up, in accordance with the Joint Declaration. The body provided an important, institutionalised, opportunity for the United Kingdom and China to discuss Hong Kong. Despite the ending of the work of the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group, the Government should continue to maintain its focus on events in Hong Kong. We welcome the Government's decision to continue presenting six-monthly reports to Parliament.[362] We recommend that the Government should continue to comment, publicly and forthrightly, on the implementation of the Joint Declaration in Hong Kong.

Fulfilling commitment to and promoting interests in Hong Kong


144. According to the FCO, "Britain has a moral and political obligation to do its utmost to ensure that China respects its obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration."[363] Hugh Davies, the former Senior Representative on the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group, informed us that "the Joint Declaration has the force of an international treaty binding the UK and China, and therefore obliges HMG to take a close interest in the preservation [of the freedoms enshrined in the Joint Declaration]."[364] We agree with the Government that the United Kingdom has a continuing moral and political obligation to ensure that China respects its obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration. We also note that the Government has a legal obligation to uphold the Joint Declaration, as this document has the force of an international treaty.


145. While we were in Hong Kong, the point was made to us by a member of the Hong Legislative Council (LegCo) that as the Basic Law reflects the provisions of the Joint Declaration, the United Kingdom Government obligation to Hong Kong also extends to the Basic Law. One of the key provisions of the Joint Declaration is: "rights and freedoms, including those of the person, of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of travel, of movement, of correspondence, of strike, of choice of occupation, of academic research and of religious belief will be ensured by law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region."[365] These rights and freedoms are all protected in the Basic Law. Other provisions are slightly modified, and there are also some provisions in the Basic Law which are very different from those of the Joint Declaration. For example, Article 23 which addresses sedition in Hong Kong, does not reflect the terms of the Joint Declaration.

146. Both because of these important differences between the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law, and because the Basic Law was a document which was not signed by the United Kingdom Government or ratified by the British Parliament, it is appropriate to define the United Kingdom's obligation to Hong Kong in terms of the Joint Declaration, and in terms of the Basic Law only in as far as it respects the Joint Declaration.[366] The FCO's objectives for Hong Kong reflect this distinction, referring only to the Joint Declaration.[367]


147. In examining the United Kingdom's links with Hong Kong, it is important not only to consider British obligations to Hong Kong, but also the fact that the United Kingdom and Hong Kong have a strong, mutually beneficial relationship in a number of areas. Hong Kong is the United Kingdom's second largest export market in Asia after Japan, taking well over £2 billion of United Kingdom exports each year.[368] The Hong Kong market is everything that the mainland market is not: open, transparent, and law-governed. Hong Kong also remains an important gateway for British businesses seeking to enter the Chinese market—a role which has expanded as China has liberalised. British Trade International estimates that £635 million of the United Kingdom's trade with China is routed through Hong Kong, some 34 per cent of the United Kingdom's trade with China.[369] Remarkably, the United Kingdom's exports to China (population 1.27 billion) have only recently surpassed those to Hong Kong (population 7 million).[370] Hong Kong has been designated a "priority market" by British Trade International, and is the United Kingdom's thirteenth largest export market.[371] The United Kingdom is the largest European exporter to Hong Kong.[372] Capital flows between the United Kingdom and Hong Kong are estimated to be £20 billion per year, and the total stock of British investment in Hong Kong is around £14 billion.[373] Hong Kong has also been a significant investor in the United Kingdom, with a stock of around £643 million: according to British Trade International this has created around 1,800 jobs.[374] There are around 25,000 United Kingdom nationals resident in Hong Kong,[375] in addition to 3.5 million BN(O) passport holders.

148. This relationship gives the United Kingdom a stake in Hong Kong's stability, and also in Hong Kong remaining a market open to British investment and trade. Upholding the Joint Declaration, and ensuring that China respects it, will contribute to these interests being protected.


149. On the occasion of the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group's final plenary session on 8 December 1999, the Senior United Kingdom Representative on the Group, Alan Paul, made the following statement: "the overall picture [since the handover] is a positive one. At the same time, it is impossible to ignore—and it would be unwise to dismiss—the strong expressions of concern about some developments in Hong Kong since the handover, particularly—but not exclusively—in the legal field. Our concern is that these developments are beginning to cast doubt in some quarters on precisely those principles and values which Britain and China agreed in the Joint Declaration to uphold. So it is too soon to make a definitive judgement about whether the achievements of the Joint Liaison Group are secure and durable."[376] Although this statement refers carefully to "doubt in some quarters" rather than specific United Kingdom Government concerns, its tone contrasts somewhat with that the Foreign Secretary's recent statement that "we continue to believe that the values of the Joint Declaration have been generally well protected and upheld by the Central People's Government in Beijing and by the Hong Kong SAR Government."[377] Starker still is the contrast with the Prime Minister's bald statement on the occasion of President Jiang Zemin's visit to the United Kingdom that "the Chinese Government has faithfully implemented the Joint Declaration."[378]

150. President Jiang Zemin told the Ninth National People's Congress in Beijing in March this year that "Hong completely free to handle those matters that are within the scope of its high degree of autonomy, and the Central Government fully believes that the SAR can deal with its own affairs well."[379] We welcome this and other statements by the mainland government that the principle of "One Country, Two Systems" will be upheld. However, some of the actions of the mainland government and the statements of mainland officials do not fully respect this principle. In the paragraphs which follow, we identify a number of areas where we have particular concerns about developments since our last Report, and where the implementation of the Joint Declaration by China has been somewhat less than "faithful." We also identify areas where, as Professor Yahuda told us, "the local government in Hong Kong...perhaps is putting less emphasis on developing further this 'high degree of autonomy' that was promised than many people would wish to see."[380]

Democracy in Hong Kong

151. In the LegCo elections of September 2000, 24 seats in the LegCo were elected from geographical constituencies, six were elected by an 800 member Election Committee (consisting of business people, professionals, labour, social and religious representatives, as well as political figures including local deputies to the mainland's NPC), and 30 were elected from "functional" constituencies.[381] The 24 seats elected by universal suffrage represented a slight increase over the 20 seats elected by this method in 1998. However, it is still the case that only 40 per cent of the LegCo's seats are elected by universal suffrage. Moreover, the Chief Executive, CH Tung, was nominated by the mainland before the hand over, and approved by a committee in Hong Kong. The next election for the post of Chief Executive is due in 2002 and this is not likely to be by universal suffrage, as we explain below.[382]

152. The word "democracy" is not mentioned in the Joint Declaration: the provision which comes closest to doing so states that "The chief executive will be appointed by the Central People's Government on the basis of the results of elections or consultations to be held locally."[383] This presumably reflects both the Chinese preference, and that of the United Kingdom Government at the time—there was nothing approaching democracy in Hong Kong in 1984 when the Joint Declaration was signed.[384] As Hugh Davies told us, "No­one will claim that Hong Kong ended up at the time of the British withdrawal with a totally democratic system. That was certainly not the case."[385] However, there are clear references to "autonomy" in the Joint Declaration. It is for Hong Kong to determine, within the terms of the Basic Law, what form the political system of Hong Kong should take. The statement by Senior British Representative, Alan Paul, at the final session of the Sino-British Liaison Group encapsulates the United Kingdom position on democracy in Hong Kong:

    "I have again raised [during the Liaison Group meeting] the need for democratic development in Hong Kong at a pace in line with the wishes of the community. The two sides [the United Kingdom Government and the Chinese government] agreed that this is a matter which falls entirely within Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy."[386]

153. The Chinese government has therefore formally accepted that it is for the Hong Kong government to determine the extent and nature of democracy in Hong Kong. However, there are reasons for doubting whether the Chinese government is in practice sanguine about the prospect of untrammelled democracy developing in Hong Kong. This is both because a fully democratic Hong Kong would represent a model for the rest of China—we discussed above[387] Beijing's hostile attitude towards the development of democracy on the mainland—and because the mainland is unwilling to see a Hong Kong administration with the self-confidence which democracy would bring to exercise the autonomy which has been granted to it.

154. The Basic Law states that:

    "The method for selecting the Chief Executive shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures."[388]

    "If there is a need to amend the method for selecting the Chief Executives for the terms subsequent to the year 2007, such amendments must be made with the endorsement of a two-thirds majority of all the members of the Legislative Council and the consent of the Chief Executive, and they shall be reported to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress for approval."[389]

The Standing Committee of the NPC therefore has the opportunity to block the introduction of election by universal suffrage of the Chief Executive.

155. It does not, however, have the right to block changes to the electoral system for LegCo: the relevant clause refers only to reporting to the NPC "for the record."[390] However, according to Hong Kong's Constitutional Affairs Panel, "any proposal to expedite the pace of democracy prior to 2007 would mean changing the composition of the third term LegCo election in 2004. Such a proposal would involve amending the BL [Basic Law]."[391] Amending the Basic Law would require the approval of the NPC. So Hong Kong only has the scope to exercise its autonomy in relation to LegCo's electoral system after 2007. The Chief Executive has said:

    "Some say now is the time to quicken our pace towards universal suffrage or, at least, to start examining and discussing this issue. Others say we should be more cautious as we have been going too fast. In my view, the pace of democratic development must be in step with the actual situation in Hong Kong. We must allow time for further study and for the present political system to mature. The Basic Law has laid down a 10-year timetable to enable us to consider the next step forward in the light of our political experience during that time. I hope that by 2007, a mature view will have emerged in the community on the development of the political structure which will help us to decide on the strategy and the steps needed for its further development."[392]

The Chief Executive followed a similar line when we met him in June, arguing that there were other more immediate priorities facing Hong Kong, and that it had only been three years since the handover. His fourth policy address, delivered on 11 October, stated that the government "would look at certain issues of governance in Hong Kong, including the accountability of senior officials, communication between the executive and the legislature and the composition of the Executive Council"[393]—but he did not refer to the extension of democracy.

156. The views of the public on the development of Hong Kong's political system were sought by LegCo's Panel on Constitutional Affairs. The Panel found, as the Chief Executive has said, that there are a range of views on the issue of how soon election by universal suffrage of the Chief Executive should be implemented.[394] The Panel found clearer evidence of public support for the election of all LegCo members by universal suffrage: in particular a poll conducted by the Research and Survey Programme of the Lingnan University in January 2000 demonstrated this.[395]

157. But the views of the people of Hong Kong have been clearly expressed in elections to the LegCo. The two LegCo elections since the handover have shown that a majority of electors support parties committed to democracy. Although in the most recent elections, the Democratic Party's vote was down (from 42.6 per cent to 34.7 per cent), and the vote for the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB—a pro-Beijing party) was up from 25.5 per cent to 29.6 per cent, the DAB has recently come to support an extension of the number of LegCo seats subject to election by universal suffrage. Regardless of the interpretation made of the election results, as the Constitutional Panel has noted, the UN Human Rights Commission has judged that the electoral system for LegCo does not comply with the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.


158. The Chief Executive and the Executive Council of Hong Kong are often accused in Hong Kong of being a puppet of Beijing. Given the extent of the mainland's influence on Hong Kong's commercial elite, and therefore upon any indirect election system, this will continue be an easy charge to make, and a hard one to refute, until the Chief Executive and the LegCo are directly elected by universal suffrage. The rule of law is of course important to Hong Kong, but in the end laws need to made and upheld by legitimate authorities. The recent unpopularity of the government of Hong Kong is perhaps a sign that a proportion of the population of Hong Kong do not consider the government of Hong Kong to be legitimate. Margaret Ng, an independent member of the LegCo told us that the people of Hong Kong were ready for democracy, but the Chief Executive was not. We fear she may be right.

159. John Battle, FCO Minister of State issued a statement after the recent LegCo elections noting that "he hoped the SAR Government would be encouraged to work towards the goal of a LegCo elected entirely on the basis of universal suffrage."[396] However, the Foreign Secretary told us that "there is a timetable for the achievement of both a wider franchise for the LegCo and for the direct election of the Chief Executive by 2007. The timetable was part of the agreement and we would expect that timetable to be adhered to."[397] Asked if this timetable could be accelerated, the Foreign Secretary said: "I would strongly counsel the Committee against pressing for anything that disturbs the agreements of the Joint Declaration or Basic Law because the moment we start pressing for rearrangement of it, the Chinese will start pressing for it."[398] The Foreign Secretary implies, although does not state explicitly, that accelerating the introduction of full democracy would "disturb" the Joint Declaration.

160. There are problems with this "counsel." The relevant section of the Joint Declaration states that:

    "The chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be selected by election or through consultations held locally and be appointed by the Central People's Government. Principal officials (equivalent to Secretaries) shall be nominated by the chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and appointed by the Central People's Government. The legislature of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be constituted by elections."[399]

We see nothing in this that would be "disturbed" by the acceleration of the introduction of democracy. And as we note above, it is the Joint Declaration which was signed both by China and the United Kingdom which defines our obligations to Hong Kong. Even if there is concern about "disturbing" the Basic Law, as the LegCo's own Constitutional Affairs Panel has noted, there is an established procedure which would allow the Basic Law to be amended. The fact that the mainland's government might be reluctant to accept such an amendment does not mean that the United Kingdom Government should not press for it. The Foreign Secretary argues that nothing should be done to disturb the Basic Law and the Joint Declaration, implying that preserving them is more important than accelerating the introduction of democracy. We find this line unconvincing. We find nothing incompatible with an acceleration in the Joint Declaration, and there is an established procedure for amending the Basic Law. In any event, democracy is both a basic human right for the people of Hong Kong and the strongest defence against unwelcome intervention by the mainland. We repeat our recommendation that universal suffrage for all seats in the LegCo should be adopted as soon as possible, by passing an amendment to the Basic Law. We also believe that Hong Kong should move towards election of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage by the next election in 2002.

Upholding the rule of law

161. Upholding the rule of law in Hong Kong forms a central part of the Joint Declaration.[400] The FCO wrote in its last six-monthly report on Hong Kong that "we continue to attach the greatest importance to the principles of independent judicial power and final adjudication, which are integral to Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy."[401] The most fundamental issue in this area since our last Report concerns the re-interpretation of the Basic Law.


162. The genesis of the re-interpretation controversy was in two judgements by the Court of Final Appeal (CFA) on 29 January 1999 which addressed appeals against some of Hong Kong's immigration ordinances. The judgements which led to the re-interpretation:

  • ruled that it was not lawful for the Hong Kong government to require those who had obtained a "Certificate of Entitlement" also to obtain a One-Way Permit (effectively a mainland exit visa) in order to come to Hong Kong.

In principle, these judgements opened up the possibility of a substantial wave of new immigration to Hong Kong from the mainland. Public opinion in Hong Kong appeared to be opposed to this possibility. There were two broad proposals for dealing with the issue. One, supported by the Hong Kong Bar Association and a large number of legislators, "particularly those in the democratic camp"[402] supported an amendment to the Basic Law in order to restrict the eligibility to the right of abode. According to the FCO, supporters of this proposal "argued that it would be the most natural and acceptable solution in a common law jurisdiction, such as Hong Kong; that it would follow procedures laid out in the Basic Law; and would preserve the maximum authority of the CFA and the judiciary."[403] The Hong Kong government, however, was concerned that this option would take too long, as amendment of the Basic Law would need to be considered by a NPC plenary session, which is held once a year in the spring. According to the FCO, the Hong Kong government "was also unsure that the NPC would be prepared to amend the Basic Law if it considered that its meaning was already clear, and that the CFA's interpretation was erroneous."[404] The Hong Kong government argued that re-interpretation would be consistent with the approach envisaged before the handover, and that it would allow the situation to be resolved speedily.

163. The Hong Kong government therefore asked the Standing Committee of the NPC to clarify those judgements of the CFA which had most significance in terms of volume of immigration.[405] Some saw this move as undermining the authority of the CFA and the confidence in the rule of law, and also argued that there was no provision in the Basic Law allowing a reinterpretation of the Basic Law. The Hong Kong administration argued that it had used an exceptional procedure. The NPC's Standing Committee largely endorsed the interpretation sought by the Hong Kong authorities, restricting the number of people eligible to settle in Hong Kong to perhaps 170,000, in place of the 1,670,000 who otherwise would have been entitled.

164. The Chief Executive made the point to us that, in similar circumstances in the United Kingdom, a new law would have been passed, but Hong Kong could not change the Basic Law—only the NPC in China could make changes or interpret the Basic Law. In the event the NPC had made an interpretation which was the same as the interpretation of the Basic Law agreed by China and the United Kingdom. The FCO has stated that it welcomes "the SAR Government's assurances that their request in this case was based on exceptional and unprecedented circumstances."[406] While we accept that the reinterpretation of the Basic Law was a necessary measure, we agree with the FCO that reinterpretation should be sought only in limited and exceptional cases.

Passports and consular support

165. One of the most important remaining obligations set out in the Joint Declaration are those which pertain to Hong Kong SAR passport holders and British National (Overseas) passport holders. Our last Report on Hong Kong recommended that the Government should continue to press for visa-free access for HKSAR passport holders, particularly in the EU. At the time of that Report, 47 countries granted visa-free access for HKSAR passport holders, while 84 countries granted visa-free access for BN(O) passport holders. In the two years since that Report, these figures have risen to 71 for HKSAR passport holders, and 86 for BN(O) holders. Visa-free access for the EU for HKSAR passport holders has not yet been achieved, but the Commission has noted the quality of Hong Kong's immigration control, and has adopted a proposal for a Council Regulation which would introduce visa-free access across the Union.[407]

166. One point of controversy in this area which was raised with us during our visit to Hong Kong was the Wu Man case. Wu Man was a British National (Overseas) who was arrested in Thailand in June 1999 and removed to mainland China to face unspecified charges. Thailand does not have an extradition treaty with China: according to the Chinese authorities, he went to the mainland voluntarily. As the case involved a BN(O), Thailand should have notified the United Kingdom that Wu Man had been arrested. According to the FCO, "we have continued to monitor Wu's case, although we have no formal locus to intervene on behalf of BN(O)s who are also Chinese nationals and who are detained in mainland China."[408] Wu was tried on 23 June 2000, and has pleaded guilty to the charges against him. The Chinese authorities have refused to provide any information on the case to the United Kingdom.

167. According to the FCO, the Chinese authorities are not under any legal obligation to provide the United Kingdom with any information on Wu, but nonetheless, the Chinese government's behaviour in this case gives cause for concern. The point was made to us in a meeting with LegCo representatives that there were two million third class United Kingdom citizens in Hong Kong, and that the Wu Man case demonstrated how third class these citizens were. We conclude that it is important that British National (Overseas) passport holders are given the same consular protection as British Citizens, and that this is widely seen to be the case. We recommend that the Government continue to pursue the case of the BN (O) passport holder, Wu Man, with the Chinese authorities.


168. One of the most controversial issues in Hong Kong at this time is the attempt to reach a rendition agreement—what would be described as an extradition treaty if Hong Kong were a state—with the mainland. There is natural concern about the consequences of an agreement which results in defendants being transferred from the transparent, impartial, legal system found in Hong Kong to the mainland's considerably less transparent system. As we discuss above,[409] nothing approaching the concept of "due process" is applied on the mainland. We heard the concerns of a number of members of LegCo during our visit to Hong Kong that there could not be a fair trial on the mainland. Against this, Elsie Leung, the Secretary for Justice, argued that only a limited number of cases would be subject to rendition, and that even the USA was near to reaching an agreement with China on mutual assistance on legal matters. One of the main stumbling blocks was the death penalty, which was widely applied in the mainland, but not in Hong Kong.

169. When we met the Chief Executive, he argued that the Hong Kong administration would be failing in its duty if it did not reach a rendition agreement with the mainland: otherwise, criminals would be free to flee across the border. Those facing rendition to the mainland would have the safeguard of going through the courts in Hong Kong. In any event, the justice system in China was getting better: for example, cases were no longer always closed to the media.

170. With regard to rendition, the Foreign Secretary told us that "we would expect any outcome to be wholly consistent with the Basic Law and with the judicial process of Hong Kong,"[410] while the FCO informed us that "we have made clear to the Chinese and SAR Governments our view that any arrangements must be acceptable to all concerned."[411] Unless the FCO has an indication that an agreement is being forced on the Hong Kong side, this is a fairly meaningless statement. From what the Chief Executive told us, he appears to have accepted the need for a rendition agreement: he almost went as far as to say that a bad agreement was better than no agreement. It seems clear, however, that rendition is not going to be acceptable to liberal opinion in the LegCo—which may or may not be included in the FCO's definition of "all concerned." The negotiation of extradition treaties is a highly sensitive issue, impinging as it does on states' sovereignty, even between jurisdictions with similar legal systems. It is unsurprising that rendition is controversial between Hong Kong and China, which do not have similar legal systems. We are sympathetic to the Chief Executive's argument that it is necessary to have a rendition agreement with the mainland. However, we find the FCO's line that any agreement must be acceptable to both sides rather limited. Upholding the rule of law in Hong Kong is a central element of the Joint Declaration, and the rendition agreement has implications for the rule of law in Hong Kong. We recommend that the FCO should take a keen interest in the rendition agreement, and should encourage both sides to ensure that any agreement has proper safeguards to prevent human rights abuses.

Mainland intervention in Hong Kong politics

171. The Foreign Secretary told us that "we spent the whole of the negotiating process up to the handover trying to get agreements so that [the mainland] could not...or should not [intervene in Hong Kong politics]. Indeed, the agreements that we reached with Beijing were specifically designed in order to prevent that from happening."[412] Despite this, there have been a series of interventions by the mainland in Hong Kong politics since the handover. Beijing appears to have become particularly concerned after the presidential elections in Taiwan. In April 2000, the deputy head of the Central Government Liaison Office in Hong Kong said that "the media [in Hong Kong] should not treat speeches and views which advocate Taiwan's independence as normal news items, nor should they report them like normal cases of reporting the views of different parties."[413] The Foreign Secretary told us that "we would wholly disagree with that statement"[414] and the United Kingdom Consulate-General in Hong Kong issued a statement at the time indicating its disapproval. Press freedom is, of course, one of the freedoms enshrined in the Basic Law.[415] In our discussions with the press corps in Hong Kong we heard that one of the problems facing the local press was that ownership of the local media was in the hands of business people with considerable interests on the mainland: there was therefore a degree of self-censorship. Clearly, statements of the sort made by the Liaison Office will only encourage this sort of self-censorship. One of the most striking examples of this sort of self-censorship has been the recent sacking of Willy Wo-Lap Lam, the mainland editor for the South China Morning Post, after he wrote an article noting that the newspaper's controlling shareholder had been instructed by the mainland to support C H Tung as Chief Executive. While criticising a newspaper's proprietor is never likely to be a good career move for a journalist, Lam was replaced by a former editor of the pro-Beijing China Daily.[416]

172. In May, the Chief Executive was reported to have insisted that the new Taiwan representative in Hong Kong (which operates unofficially through the Chung Hwa Travel Service) would be denied a visa to travel to Hong Kong unless he made a statement supporting the Communist Party's line that there is only "one China."[417] This may not have been as the result of direct intervention by the mainland, but the Chief Executive would appear in this case not to have been exercising Hong Kong's full autonomy. We then heard during our visit that representatives of the mainland in Hong Kong suggested that members of the Hong Kong business community which have associated themselves with Taiwanese firms, and particularly with any Taiwanese firms that had any inclination to support a greater measure of independence of Taiwan from China would be frowned on or worse by the Chinese authorities. Anson Chan, the head of the Hong Kong civil service, reacted strongly against Beijing's interventions in each case.

173. The next intervention by Beijing was directed against Anson Chan herself. She recently met the Chinese Vice-Premier, Qian Qichen. The Vice-Premier is reported to have "expressed his hope that Chan and all public servants in Hong Kong will support HK Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa and contribute to the prosperity of the territory under the Chief Executive."[418] While in many ways this is an unobjectionable statement—of course it is the job of the civil service to support the Chief Executive—in the context of reports of disputes between the Chief Executive and Anson Chan, and given the fact that Anson Chan was appointed under the United Kingdom administration while the Chief Executive was appointed by the mainland, this intervention becomes less welcome. Mainland media reports had also noted that Beijing was unhappy with Anson Chan's "lukewarm backing for a number of the chief executive's policy actions."[419] Anson Chan is popular in Hong Kong, and her continuing role has been a factor in business confidence in the Hong Kong administration since 1997.

174. Lord Powell noted in evidence to us that "the statements [relating to media coverage of Taiwan in Hong Kong] were regrettable. They were short-sighted, counterproductive and they mostly came from middle level officials who were plainly trying to curry favour higher up the line."[420] While it is true that a number of these statements have not come directly from the most senior levels in Beijing, they reflect a pattern of intervention in Hong Kong's internal affairs. Recent interventions in Hong Kong by mainland officials are unwelcome and appear to betray a misunderstanding both of Hong Kong's autonomy and of what it means to live in a free society. As well as acting as a guarantor of Hong Kong's freedoms, a free press remains vital to Hong Kong's future as an international business centre. We recommend that the United Kingdom Government frequently reinforces this point both to the Hong Kong administration and to Beijing.

357   Second Report of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Session 1988-89, HC 281, and First Report, Session 1993-94, HC 37. Back

358  Third Report of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Session 1997-98, HC 710, available on Back

359   A list of those the Committee met is set out in the Annex. Back

360   See para. 3. Back

361   Q108. Back

362   Available on: Back

363   Ev. p. 119. Back

364   Ev. p. 10. Back

365   Joint Declaration, Articles 3 and 5. Available on: Back

366   According to the former Governor, Chris Patten: "As for the Basic Law, since the intention to draft it was included in the Joint Declaration, I was bound to recognise that it would form the future Hong Kong constitution...but it was not my Basic Law, nor the British government's. Britain had tacitly, and with a degree of deserved embarrassment, given it a distant blessing, but we had not been party to it and we were not legally, politically or morally bound by it. There were parts of it-for example its provisions on subversion-that I did not like and had some difficulty reconciling with the Joint Declaration and the common law." East and West, 1998, Macmillan, London, p. 43. Back

367   See para. 9. Back

368   Ev. pp. 117-118. Exports were £2.3 billion in 1999, ev. p. 223, Appendix 29. Back

369   Ev. p. 111; Ev. p. 224, Appendix 29. Back

370   Ev. p. 221, Appendix 29. Back

371   Ev. p. 223, Appendix 29. Back

372   The UK has 7.9 per cent of OECD exports to Hong Kong, compared to 7.4 per cent for Germany, 4 per cent for France, and 5.7 per cent for Italy. Ev. p. 223, Appendix 29. Back

373   Ev. p. 118. Back

374   Ev. p. 223, Appendix 29. Back

375   Rough estimate by the Consulate-General, Hong Kong. Back

376   Available on: Back

377   Six-monthly Report on Hong Kong, January-June 2000, July 2000, Cm 4809, p. 3, available on Back

378   Britain and China Partners for the Millennium, The State visit of the President of the People's Republic of China, 19-22 October 1999, p. 7, Agenda Publishing. Back

379   Quoted in the Six-monthly Report on Hong Kong, January-June 2000, July 2000, Cm 4809, p. 4, available on Back

380   Q11. Back

381   Prior to the handover, 2.7 million people were eligible to vote in the functional elections: after the handover, "employees" lost their votes, and only "professionals" were able to vote, reducing the electorate to 180,000. Back

382   See para. 155. Back

383   Joint Declaration, Article 4. Available on: Back

384   Jonathan Dimbleby records in The Last Governor (Warner Books, 1998, p. 13) that a group of backbenchers, led by Mr Ted Rowlands, visited Hong Kong in 1979, and "took it upon 'harangue' the governor of the time, Sir Murray MacLehose, about democracy...this encounter help[ed] to nudge the colonial administration towards the establishment, in embryonic form, of the hydra-headed quasi-democracy which [Chris Patten] was to inherit over a decade later."  Back

385   Q18. Back

386   Available on: Back

387   See para. 25. Back

388   Article 45. Full text of the Basic Law available on: Back

389   Annex 1, para. 7. Full text of the Basic Law available on: Back

390   Annex 2.III. Full text of the Basic Law available on: Back

391   Report on the development of the political system of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, June 2000, 5.11. Hereafter "Constitutional Panel report". Available on:­00/english/panels/ca/general/eca.htm. Back

392   1999 Policy Address, available on Back

393   Ev. p. 125. Back

394   Constitutional Panel report 4.13. Back

395   Constitutional Panel report 5.13. Back

396   Ev. p. 125. Back

397   Q299. Back

398   Q300. Back

399   Annex I, full text available on:­full2.htm. Back

400   E.g. Joint Declaration, 3.5, available on:­full2.htm. Back

401   Six monthly report on Hong Kong, July-December 1999, February 2000, para. 3, Cm 4594, available on: Back

402   Six-monthly Report on Hong Kong, January-June 1999, July 1999, Cm 4415, p. 5, available on Back

403   Six-monthly Report on Hong Kong, January-June 1999, July 1999, Cm 4415, p. 5, available on Back

404   Six-monthly Report on Hong Kong, January-June 1999, July 1999, Cm 4415, p. 5, available on Back

405   I.e, the Hong Kong government did not ask for a reinterpretation in respect of the CFA's judgment with regard to the right of abode of children born out of wedlock. Back

406   Six-monthly Report on Hong Kong, January-June 1999, July 1999, Cm 4415, p. 7, available on  Back

407   COM(2000) 294 final, 30 May 2000. Back

408   Six-monthly Report on Hong Kong, January-June 2000, July 2000, Cm 4809, p. 8, available on Back

409   See para. 37. Back

410   Q295. Back

411   Ev. p. 116. Back

412   Q296. Back

413   The Daily Telegraph, 14 April 2000. Back

414   Q297. Back

415   Article 27 states that "Hong Kong residents shall have freedom of speech, of the press and of publication". Full text available on: Back

416   China News Digest, 5 November 2000. Back

417   The Daily Telegraph, 28 May 2000. According to the FCO, the Chief Executive was applying rules which had existed since 1995, which stipulated that Taiwanese organisations could be represented in Hong Kong so long as they did not engage in activities which would damage Hong Kong's stability or prosperity. There is clearly some room for interpretation in this requirement. Ev. p. 144. Back

418   BBC Monitoring, 26 September 2000. Back

419   BBC Monitoring, reporting Radio TV Hong Kong web site, 26 September 2000. Back

420   Q124. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2000
Prepared 29 November 2000