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Western Press Review: US-China Relations And Hong Kong

  • Ron Synovitz

Prague, 11 June 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary today examines Washington's announcement that U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will not attend next month's inauguration ceremony for the "provisional" legislature that Beijing has hand-picked for Hong Kong.

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: America will boycott inauguration

An analysis piece in today's London Daily Telegraph by Hong Kong correspondent Graham Hutchings and diplomatic editor Christopher Lockwood predicts that other western governments may join the diplomatic boycott.

The article says: "China's plans to boost the legitimacy of its unelected legislature for Hong Kong have been seriously dented by America's declaration that it will boycott the inauguration of the new body, just 90 minutes after the territory's return to Beijing on July 1. Britain now looks certain to follow suit, and will urge its EU partners to do the same."

The article continues: "If other countries follow Mrs Albright's decision to boycott the swearing-in it will be a blow to China's plan to use the presence of thousands of VIPs in Hong Kong for the handover to lend credibility to the body." But the authors say the interest in developing trade with Beijing could make other governments reluctant to join a boycott because "snubbing Hong Kong's provisional legislature will ... also amount to snubbing China."

The article concludes that "Much attention will now focus on whether the French will attend the (legislative) ceremony. Germany's position is also not clear. Failure by Britain to secure the support of its EU partners in this symbolic but deeply sensitive issue could mark the end of the Labour government's honeymoon in Europe."

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: London should have led the boycott

An editorial in the London Daily Telegraph criticizes China's decision to combine the formal handover ceremony with the inauguration of the legislature. The newspaper also criticizes British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook because he did not "announce immediately that he could not take part in an event which would imply his blessing on the legislature."

The newspaper says: "Mr Cook should also have strongly discouraged other European Union countries from attending. Instead, the Foreign Secretary appears to have been bounced into leaving after the British handover by the Americans, who have rightly stated that they want no part in subsequent events. Moreover, no attempt has so far been made to persuade EU representatives to follow suit."

The editorial concludes by reminding readers about Cook's mission statement last month, which spoke of injecting "an ethical content" into British foreign policy. The editorial says: "It is, rather, moral equivocation which is characterizing the Government's approach to the transfer of our last great colonial possession."

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Inauguration will go ahead despite boycott

An analysis piece in today's Chicago Tribune by Liz Sly quotes officials in China and Hong Kong as saying that the legislative inauguration would go ahead despite the boycott threat. But Sly says it remains unclear whether the handover ceremony and the inauguration of the legislature will be simultaneous, or whether two ceremonies would be held. Sly quotes Provisional Legislature chairwoman Rita Fan as saying that there are no plans to change the schedule because of Albright's threat. In Fan's words, "The task and responsibility of the Provisional Legislature is to serve the people of Hong Kong. We don't care how foreign powers look at us."

WASHINGTON POST: Albright explains herself

The Washington Post features an opinion piece in which Madeleine Albright herself explains the Clinton administration's policies on China. Albright attacks critics who argue that the U.S. should suspend normal trade relations until Chinese policies on human rights, markets and military exports are changed. Albright says: "The administration is convinced our interests are better served by a rank dialogue with China in which differences are aired and opportunities to establish common ground are explored."

"The future of US-China relations will depend primarily on how China conducts itself as its economy grows and its regional influence expands. Our policy is to encourage China to accept the reality that it will find more security and prosperity if it abides by international rules than if it does not... We would like to see China travel further down the road toward full observation of international norms, particularly those on human rights. But given the undemocratic nature of its government, we expect that movement to be gradual and would be disappointed, but not surprised, by setbacks."

Albright concludes that the Clinton administration "proceeds from the realistic conviction that revoking China's trade status would derail prospects for U.S.-China cooperation."