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Thu, Mar 27, 1997
As British Empire Departs Hong Kong, Another One of Sorts Takes Shape

also: Dalai Lama sees HK as model for Tibet; Jiang warns Gore about Taiwan; PRC refutes UN Human Rights report; info on Beijing & Vietnam row; and more . . .

Please read the statement of purpose.

Hong Kong: "In All but the Union Jack, Hong Kong Is Under China" is the title of a New York Times story detailing the ways in which mainland power and practices have been evolving in Hong Kong for some time. It's an interesting and well-written piece.

Another New York Times piece looks at the transition in Hong Kong from the British perspective. The paper notes, the withdrawal of Britain from its last important colony is an event of little emotion in the UK itself, where people have long ago accepted---perhaps wanted---the retreat from Empire. This is another interesting piece to read. One point to think about: the author quotes Gerald Segal, a research fellow at a London based organization: "The greatest virtue of the Patten policy is that it smoked out the fundamental contradictions of the Chinese policy of one country, two systems," Segal said. (See the Tue, Mar 4, 1997 issue for my analysis of this).

(Note: the New York Times on-line edition is free, but requires that users register a name and password, and therefore first-time users should first introduce themselves on the Times registration page.)

Sir Percy Cradock, an architect of the the 1984 joint Declaration and former ambassador to Beijing, had nothing kind to say about Patten. Speaking of Patten's attempt to institute some semblance of "democracy" into the system, Percy said: "He has been incompetent, and as a result of it, we are getting less democracy, less protection, less rule of law than we would have if he hadn't come. The Joint Declaration was an agreement with a Communist government, we always knew that. We never pretended we were dealing with Asquithian liberals." ( "Herbert Asquith was the Liberal prime minister who championed home rule for Ireland," the paper explains.) "I'm not saying the Chinese action was right, but it was totally explicable, totally predictable," said Sir Percy. "What we did was to encourage the Chinese in their belief that we are not to be trusted. We confirmed all their old suspicions," reports the paper.

One final note: the paper says, unlike Britain's withdrawal from India 50-years ago this year, the majesty and the grandeur of her departure from Hong Kong will be considerably muted. In India there was a sense of accomplishment and appreciation for the British legacy, regardless of the problems and contradictions within the colonial system itself and Britain's administration of India in particular. In Hong Kong however the British government will transfer sovereignty to a government who will celebrate on July 1 "the cleansing of a 156-year-old stain of shame and the restoration of the physical integrity of the motherland," writes the paper; incidentally, this dovetails nicely the speech given by the departing Chinese admiral from Manila yesterday (See Philippines in the Wed, Feb 26, 1997 issue).

The Far Eastern Economic Review has a story on the emerging political elite in the territory. Firmly focused on business and with little passion for Politics per se, the characteristics of the new power holders may not differ radically from those at the center under British administration. But there appears to be a "revolution" of sorts afoot:

"As they try to make over the territory in their own image, the new Hong Kong elite is likely to emphasize development at the cost of the environment, infrastructure at the cost of welfare. Opportunity will be in, equality out. In the process, they are likely to try and sideline populists of both the left and the right who filled the legislature in a brief spring of accountable government in the 1990s," reports the Review. Readers are encouraged to read the entire story.

(Note: the Far Eastern Economic Review on-line service is free, but requires that users register with them and login, and therefore first-time users should first introduce themselves on the FEER registration page.)

Dalai Lama: the leader of the Tibetan government in exile departed Taiwan today and called for both Tibet and Taiwan to seek a compromise with the mainland government, reports Inside China. The Dalai Lama said he would accept a "one-country two-systems" arrangement with Beijing, because he is not interested in seeking independence from China and would only want autonomy. He noted opposition to such a stance from within his own ranks.

The Dalai Lama said he conveyed the same message to members of the opposition parties in Taiwan, reports the paper. "I told my DPP friends that the Taiwanese, regarding their own unique cultural heritage or identity, it is their right to preserve (them). But in greater fields such as economy and defense, these are much larger issues... There should no longer be any independent economy of one country. The economy is now a global economy. Therefore, some kind of close link with mainland China should be there. But ultimately it is up to the people, the Taiwan issue."

United States: Vice President Al Gore travelled to Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province, and met the wonders of the Qin Dynasty today after being warned by China's current leader President Jiang Zemin that the US should not interfere in affairs concerning Taiwan. Mr Jiang suggested, this issue has the potential of harming the improvements in Sino-US relations. But Mr Jiang also said, in times of disagreement between the two countries, they should take a longer view of their relationship and expect an overall cooperative one. "If some differences cannot be resolved for the time being, the two sides can seek common ground while reserving differences, but they cannot meddle in the overall situation in developing relations," the paper quotes Jiang.

Vietnam: the dispute between Vietnam and the PRC over a drilling rig and support vessels in Vietnam's waters continues. An official with the China National Offshore Oil Corp. said, the rig would continue to conduct its drilling operations in the waters and would be removed only when its explorations were completed; apparently, this itself would depend on whether or not the rig strikes gas.

The Far Eastern Economic Review picks this dispute as its top regional story for this week's issue. The Review writes, China's game of chess in Southeast Asia was met by Vietnam's move to appeal to Asean. A new member of Asean, Vietnam has traditionally dealt with these issues in a bilateral fashion. The Review says, the way in which the dispute is resolved will amount to a test of Asean's power in the region and ability to deal with China.

(Note: the Far Eastern Economic Review on-line service is free, but requires that users register with them and login, and therefore first-time users should first introduce themselves on the FEER registration page.)

Xinjiang: China has rebuked a United Nations report criticizing the PRC for exploiting the resources of Xinjiang. The report, written by the UN Center for Human Rights, accuses Beijing of extracting valuable petroleum and grain resources from the region at an undue level, reports Inside China. The article provides few details about the report itself, but the Chinese response was clear: the purchase of petroleum and grain is needed for national economic development as well as development within Xinjiang. The purchases are not excessive, and the criticism leveled by the report represents a "plot" by "Western" Human rights forces to split China. "For quite some time, some people in the international community, in the name of protecting human rights, have been maliciously attacking China and sowing dissension among Chinese nationalities with fabricated and distorted cases," the paper quotes Xinhua, China's official news agency.

Labour safety: "Dormitory Collapse Kills 31" is an Inside China article.

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China Informed

a news service focused on China, Taiwan and Hong Kong
©1997 Matthew Sinclair-Day