Orders of the Day — Hong Kong

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:10 am on 10th March 1988.

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Photo of Dr John Marek Dr John Marek , Wrexham 1:10 am, 10th March 1988

It is difficult to gauge accurately on a short visit the feeling in Hong Kong, but one thing that came through was that the survey by A. G. B. McNair has been largely discredited. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with asking people, "Do you want direct elections?" and asking them to tick "yes" or "no". The second question is, "Do you want direct elections in 1991 or 1998?" and they are asked to tick "yes", "no" or -abstention". That would have been clear. However, I do not want to take up too much time as other hon. Members want to speak. The question was very convoluted and it was clear to me that opinion in Hong Kong was such that if the questions were phrased differently and were clear the chances are that a different result would have been achieved.

While I was in Hong Kong I also felt that there was a greater demand for direct elections. People were thinking and talking about that and the subject appeared more and more frequently in the Chinese press as well as in the English language papers. There were fewer objections to direct elections. In fact, I did not read any objections in the letters columns of the English language Hong Kong press recently. The people to whom I spoke were very receptive to a substantial measure of direct elections in Hong Kong.

I want to consider the Basic Law about which I have some concerns. First, I must repeat that the Basic Law is a matter for China to promulgate. What I have to say is in no way intended to detract from that. However, I am sure that the People's Republic of China will be interested to hear what hon. Members of the British Parliament and indeed, more importantly, what the British Government have to say about their view or the Basic Law, not because the Government or hon. Members want to tell China what to do or because they want to be destructive in their criticism, but simply because we want to help. After all, the British Government have many years' experience of administration in Hong Kong and should be able to help not just through discussions in the joint liaison group—that is perhaps not quite the place where the discussions should take place—but directly, openly and in front of the people of Hong Kong so that they know exactly what is happening. One of my criticisms at present is that the people of Hong Kong do not really know what discussions, if any, are going on between the British Government, the Hong Kong Government and the People's Republic of China.

I have a draft of the Basic Law. It is not an absolutely up-to-date draft. I believe that it is an English translation dated 5 January.