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Hong Kong

Volume 927: debated on Wednesday 2 March 1977

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14.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he is satisfied with the social advance of Hong Kong.

Her Majesty's Government have welcomed the Hong Kong Government's plans for further progress in labour, social and allied fields. My right hon. Friend is satisfied that the Hong Kong Government are making good progress in dealing with their social and other problems.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the deep resentment that is felt among many grass-roots organisations in Hong Kong? Does he not agree that unless there are further aids and reforms there could be disturbances and, indeed, riots similar to those that occurred in 1967?

I know Hong Kong quite well. I have spent a year of my life there. I do not honestly expect the kind of disturbances that my hon. Friend has mentioned in the immediate future. I am sure my hon. Friend knows that at the opening of the current session of the Legislative Council this year the Governor of Hong Kong announced rather sweeping measures in the very field about which my hon. Friend has spoken—social reform—for example, not only measures concerning labour relations and social welfare but measures that will raise the school leaving age to 15 by 1980 and double the rate of State house building.

Will the Minister bear in mind the burden imposed on the Hong Kong Government by a population which has increased eightfold since the war? In view of this, Hong Kong has achieved remarkable social and economic advances and now has one of the highest standards of living in Asia. Its GNP last year increased by 16 per cent. while the rate of price increases was less than 4 per cent. Will the Minister invite a team of advisers from Hong Kong to come here and advise our Government?

I accept that the rate of economic advance in Hong Kong has been very striking. On the other hand, I do not deny that we have a responsibility for this very important colony—the largest of our remaining colonial possessions. It is up to the Government of Hong Kong to ensure that social conditions correspond to the high standard of living to which the hon. Member has just drawn attention.