UK sought closer eco­nomic ties with Beijing through Hong Kong deal: files

The China Post - - GUIDE POST - BY KATHER­INE HAD­DON

Bri­tain was look­ing for stronger eco­nomic ties with China even be­fore the agree­ment that would even­tu­ally hand it Hong Kong was signed in 1984, se­cret doc­u­ments re­leased Tues­day showed.

Ahead of late Prime Min­is­ter Mar­garet Thatcher’s trip to Beijing in De­cem­ber that year to sign the deal, of­fi­cials dis­cussed how she should make the case for Bri­tish business with China.

The files also re­vealed how China’s then leader Deng Xiaop­ing re­as­sured Thatcher that his coun­try would keep its side of the agree­ment, based on the con­cept of “one coun­try, two sys­tems,” adding that China “al­ways hon­ored its com­mit­ments.”

The doc­u­ments were re­leased by the Na­tional Ar­chives in London un­der the 30-year rule, which al- lows pre­vi­ously se­cret gov­ern­ment files to be made pub­lic after three decades.

Thatcher signed the Joint Dec­la­ra­tion with China in De­cem­ber, agree­ing to hand Hong Kong, which has this year seen weeks of pro-democ­racy protests against Beijing, over to China in 1997.

Around six weeks be­fore her trip, the Bri­tish em­bassy in Beijing wrote to the For­eign Of­fice urg­ing that Thatcher should “press for greater ex­port and in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for Bri­tish in­dus­try un­der the sign­board of greater par­tic­i­pa­tion in China’s mod­ern­iza­tion.”

It added: “It will be im­por­tant how­ever to han­dle this in pub­lic in such a way that Hong Kong opin­ion does not see our moves to de­velop trade as ex­ploita­tion of the Hong Kong agree­ment.”

In a nod to this con­cern, of­fi­cials de­cided that Thatcher should not travel with a party of Bri­tish busi­ness­men to avoid sug­ges­tions “that we were now get­ting our prize for hav­ing sold out Hong Kong to the Chi­nese,” Peter Rick­etts, a se­nior For­eign Of­fice civil ser­vant, wrote to Thatcher ad­vi­sor Charles Pow­ell on Nov. 16, 1984.

Dur­ing the trip, business deals in­clud­ing around the de­vel­op­ment of a nu­clear power sta­tion in Guang­dong were dis­cussed, the files re­veal.

Thatcher was also as­sured by Deng, seen as the ar­chi­tect of China’s eco­nomic re­forms, over his coun­try’s in­ten­tions in Hong Kong.

“Some peo­ple har­bored doubts about whether China would honor the agree­ment. Deng said he wished to in­form the prime min­is­ter and the whole world that China al­ways hon­ored its com­mit­ments,” a Bri­tish em­bassy note of the meet­ing said.

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