My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has no plans at present to visit Hong Kong. However, my right hon. Friend was able to discuss a wide range of Hong Kong issues with the Governor during his recent visit to London.
Why unnecessarily antagonise the Chinese by adopting such a beligerent tone during the course of negotiations with China? Would not a little bit of subtle diplomacy in the historic tradition of this great country be far more beneficial to British and Hong Kong interests?
As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told Vice Premier Zhu Rongji in London last week, the Government fully support the Governor's proposals. We consider that they reflect the wishes of the Hong Kong people and are consistent with the joint declaration of 1984 and the Basic Law. The Governor's aim is to make the Hong Kong Administration more effective and accountable and the electoral system as fair, open and broadly based as possible. He is proposing a modest extension of democracy, consistent with the agreements that we have reached with China. Our policy in dealing with China over Hong Kong has remained the same. We want co-operation and a smooth transition in 1997. We remain ready to discuss the Governor's proposals and it will then be for the Legislative Council in Hong Kong to take a decision.
Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the Governor's proposals have been warmly endorsed by the Legislative Council and that opinion polls show that they are fully supported by the people of Hong Kong? If the Government and the People's Republic of China believe that those proposals are in any way incompatible with the joint declaration and the Basic Law, could they be invited to point out where those incompatibilities occur?
My hon. Friend is extremely knowledgeable about Hong Kong and what he says is absolutely right. It is now time for calm discussion.
Putting aside the issues of the Governor's style and timing, will the Minister assure the House that the Government will stand firm and support him against the substantial pressures that are being put on him? Does he accept that there is much support within the House for the proposals which, as the Minister said, extend the democratic process in Hong Kong?
I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he has said. Of course, the Governor has the full support of the British Government and of hon. Members on both sides of the House.
Given that the Beijing Government are showing the minimum possible understanding of what the Governor of Hong Kong is trying to achieve through his reforms, will my right hon. Friend encourage the Governor to explain to the Beijing Government that the moderate democratic reforms proposed are not just consistent—the word that my right hon. Friend used—with the Basic Law but necessary to make Hong Kong operate now and, after 1997, as a special administrative region as part of two systems within one country? Without those reforms, the success of Hong Kong will be jeopardised, to the great detriment of the world and the People's Republic of China.
My right hon. Friend is right. It is in the interests of Britain, China and the people of Hong Kong that Hong Kong remains successful until 1997 and beyond. The best way to achieve that is through co-operation based on the joint declaration, which is what we are seeking to achieve in the proposals.