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Hong Kong

Volume 226: debated on Wednesday 16 June 1993

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to visit Hong Kong to discuss Sino-British relations; and if he will make a statement.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has at present no plans to do so, but I visited Hong Kong from 29 May to I June. Talks are continuing between Britain and China on electoral arrangements in Hong Kong. We are working for an early and successful conclusion in time for us to hold elections in Hong Kong in 1994 and 1995 which are fair, open and acceptable to the people of Hong Kong.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that pushing ahead with the new airport in Hong Kong is crucial to maintaining confidence for the future there, especially among the commercial community? Can he give some hope of progress in the relatively near future in the discussions with the Chinese authorities about the financing arrangements for that airport?

My hon. Friend is correct: everybody agrees that Hong Kong needs a new airport if it is to remain an international trade and financial centre. We have done our best to take account of Chinese problems with financing arrangements and further discussions on those arrangements are taking place. I hope that they will lead to an agreement. Our view remains that if the problems were dealt with on their merits they could be quickly solved and that would certainly be a great boost to confidence. In the meantime, we are maintaining momentum on the airport to avoid expensive cost increases and slippages.

Does the Minister envisage any circumstances in which the Government might renege on the 1997 agreement to withdraw from Hong Kong?