Speculation is continuing over just how much progress is being made in the Anglo-Chinese talks on the future of Hong Kong.
BBC: LONDON, UK: JULY 4, 1983
GVs AND SV Hong Kong Governor Sir Edward Youde leads Hong Kong Executive Council members up Downing, to Number 10, the Prime Minister's residence (3 shots)
STILLS Etching of early Hong Kong settlers; the treaty between China and Britain (3 shots)
UNDATED: Street scenes in Hong Kong city centre (3 shots)
VISNEWS LIBRARY: BEIJING, CHINA: SEPTEMBER 22, 1983
GVS British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher seated with Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang; Mrs Thatcher, Premier Zhao Ziyang and other officials take their seats in conference room (5 shots)
HONG KONG: AUGUST, 1982
AVs Border area between China and Hong Kong; outskirts of Hong Kong SVs AND GVs Hong Kong city centre SV INTERIOR Bustle of activity in Hong Kong Stock Exchange (8 shots)
HONG KONG: JULY 4, 1983
GVs AND SVs Hotels, shops and other buildings with "To let" signs; deserted construction site; empty luxury apartment block (7 shots)
KOWLOON RAIL STATION, HONG KONG: APRIL 4, 1979
GVs AND SVs People stand on over-pass watching train arriving at station; train pulls into station; Hong Kong Governor Sir Murray MacLehose being greeted by officials (5 shots)
BORDER BETWEEN HONG KONG AND CHINA: JUNE, 1981
GVs Trucks arriving at border post; vehicles passing through checkpoint (3 shots)
SHENZHEN, CHINA: JUNE, 1981
GVs AND SVs Building under construction and large greenhouse at special economic development zone; workers in one of 600 factories being built in co-operation with foreign firms based in Hong Kong (3 shots).
HONG KONG/CHINESE BORDER, MARCH 1983
AV Border area GVs AND SVs Police vehicle patrols along border: Sha Tau Kok village which is split between China and Hong Kong; policeman closes gate separating the two areas AV Chinese flag flying from building at Lo Wu, the main crossing-point on the border GVs Illegal immigrants being led through gate and loaded onto trucks and drive away (9 shots)
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Background: Speculation is continuing over just how much progress is being made in the Anglo-Chinese talks on the future of Hong Kong. The talks, between British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the Governor of Hong Kong, Sir Edward Youde and members of the policy-making Hong Kong Executive Council, continued in London on July 4, after a hiatus of several months. The British Foreign Office has announced that talks in Beijing would resume on July 12, with the Hong Kong Governor taking part for the first time, as negotiations moved into a "more detailed" phase. The Foreign Office has been quick to deny reports that Britain had already cede sovereignty over Hong Kong to the Chinese-- a concession which Beijing had always demanded as a preliminary to substantive talks on the future of the British colony. Hong Kong's thriving stock market ha already shown signs of uncertainty with fluctuating prices reflecting the present speculation over which direction the talks are taking. The Hong Kong sovereignty issue is a major one for the British and the Chinese. Hong Kong is one of the last-and probably wealthiest-- vestiges of the British colonial empire. But for China it represents a long-standing territorial claim--and that claim on Hong Kong may well be a step on the way to recovering Taiwan.
SYNOPSIS: The Hong Kong delegation, led by Sir Edward Youde, was made up of nine unofficial members of the Executive Council--all leading figures in business and industry. They met Mrs. Thatcher and Foreign Secretary, Sir Geoffrey Howe, at Downing Street on July 4. Britain's 1998 lease of Hong Kong's New Territories is due to expire in 1997, when China is anxious to resume sovereignty over the entire colony, including the islands and the Kowloon Peninsula. Britain insists that the territory was ceded to it in perpetuity but China--which received no payment for the loss of land--claims the colony was seized illegally through unjust treaties and must be returned.
Hong Kong's present economic uncertainty first appeared when property and share prices plunged after Mrs Thatcher visited Beijing last September, for talks. Comments at the time from both sides, showed major differences of opinion. The talks were so acrimonious, according to Newsweek magazine last month, that Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping insisted on a deadline for agreement--the end of 1984--or China would announce its own solution.
While Beijing and Whitehall discuss the future of Hong Kong and its 5.2 million people, the territory's top business people are trying to inspire confidence by announcing projects extending beyond the 1997 hand-over date. And Governor Youde has said the Hong Kong Government will continue to invest heavily, as proof of its confidence in the territory's future. The effects of uncertainty over the future are evident of the financial scene--the stock market declined sharply, the Hong Kong dollar is struggling back after reaching a record low, and an estimated 5 billion U.S. dollars has been invested abroad or in foreign currency accounts.
The sudden impact of the world recession and uncertainty over the future, have shaken Hong Kong's normally optimistic entrepreneurs. Growing unemployment, falling profits and a big government deficit are among the visible signs that Hong Kong's lengthy boom period may be over--for the time being, at least. Hong Kong's serious property slump ha worsened. Many construction projects have been halted and "To Let" sign are everywhere. Luxury apartments remain empty and unsold.
The signs of increased involvement between China and Hong Kong have been evident for some time. In 1979, the direct train service between Hong Kong and the south China city of Canton was restored, after being suspended for 30 years. On board the train was Sir Murray MacLehose--the first Hong Kong Governor to visit China since the Communist takeover in 1949.
China has frequently stated it will maintain the social and economic system in fiercely-capitalist Hong Kong. Any dramatic economic changes would not be in China's interests. Forty per cent of its foreign exchange is generated in Hong Kong. To bolster the colony's economy and raise long-range confidence, Beijing announced last month that it would increase its Hong Kong investments by building a textile mill, a brewery and a cement plant. A possible solution, as seen by many analyst, would be to turn Hong Kong into a special free-trade zone, under a Chinese flag but with a Hong Kong Chinese Governor and local administration.
During the 1960s, Hong Kong's border with China was a tense area but today, with China's closer links with the West--and the growing co-operation between the two neighbours--the border situation is now peaceful. The calm is only broken by the few young Chinese who try to cross the border illegally each day, lured by the bustle and bright lights of Hong Kong. The next series of sovereignty talks, on July 12, may not do much to abate the uncertainty over Hong Kong's future/ Both Britain and China recognise the need for an early solution, favouring one or the other, to avoid years of uncertainty, during which business confidence in Hong Kong would almost certainly erode-- a situation which would be of no benefit to Hong Kong, China, Britain--or the world's financial markets.