[IWAR] HONG KONG 'China keeping promises'

From: 7Pillars Partners (partnersat_private)
Date: Wed Jan 21 1998 - 16:43:20 PST

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    Our sources on the ground would dispute this, but... --MW
    China keeping promises on Hong Kong, Britain says
          Copyright  1998 Nando.net
          Copyright  1998 The Associated Press
       HONG KONG (January 21, 1998 2:43 p.m. EST http://www.nando.net) -- Six
       months after Britain handed Hong Kong over to China, Britain's foreign
       secretary praised its new rulers Wednesday for keeping the former colony
       "genuinely free and prosperous."
       In his first visit since July 1, Robin Cook said Beijing appeared to be
       keeping its promises that the territory would have a high degree of
       autonomy as a Special Administrative Region of China.
       Hong Kong "has retained its character as a genuinely free and prosperous
       society," Cook said in a speech to the British Chamber of Commerce.
       But Cook also qualified his praise, saying China did not have "a
       uniformly positive scoreboard."
       He noted that Britain had protested when China replaced Hong Kong's
       elected legislature with an unelected body last July 1. London also has
       "real concerns" about the Hong Kong government's decision to shrink
       voting franchises in elections scheduled for May.
       He urged the government to broaden the number of voters in affected
       constituencies and said it was "vital" that Hong Kong elections "are
       free and fair and seen to be so."
       "We shall be watching closely to ensure that that is the case," he said.
       Democrat Martin Lee, a Hong Kong politician among the legislators thrown
       out of office when China took over, accused Britain of softening its
       criticism of the electoral changes.
       "I'm disappointed that the British government is not standing firm to
       its original demands," he said. The new election rules, Lee said, "are
       clearly unfair."
       Cook, who arrived Tuesday after meeting with Chinese leaders in Beijing,
       said while the relationship between Britain and the territory it ruled
       for 156 years has fundamentally changed, London's interest in Hong Kong
       "will endure and will grow."
       Detractors who assumed Britain's commitment to Hong Kong would end July
       1 were wrong, he said.
       "The friendships and trust that have built up are strong enough to
       survive," he said. "It is a relationship that is still flourishing. The
       potential is enormous."
       More than 25,000 Britons live in Hong Kong. Britain is Hong Kong's
       largest foreign investor, and Britain receives 80 percent of Hong Kong's
       investment in Europe.
       Cook also urged British companies to take "full advantage" of the
       economic problems buffeting Asian currencies and markets by
       strengthening their presence in Hong Kong. Hong Kong "has shown
       resilience" during the crisis and its liberal economy and open society
       have helped, he said.
       Asian nations should learn from the situation that openness and
       democracy are key to economic development, he added.
       "A government cannot hope its citizens will embrace the information age
       and then deny them an informed debate on public policy," Cook said.
       Cook also was to meet with Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, who took over
       as Hong Kong's leader from former British Gov. Chris Patten.
       By JOHN LEICESTER, The Associated Press

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