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Western Press Review: Optimism Governs Hong Kong's 'Return' To Chinese Rule

Prague, 25 June 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The moment approaches for what the British call the "handover" of Hong Kong to China, others call the "takeover," and the Chinese call the "reversion" of Hong Kong. Commentary in the British and U.S. press examine the last days of colonial Hong Kong.

THE TIMES OF LONDON: Patten's Political Legacy To Endure In Hong Kong

A commentary by journalist Jonathan Mirsky examines the moderate tone being taken by Tung Chee-hwa, who is to step in Monday as China's governor of Hong Kong. Mirsky writes: "If Tony Blair can keep his wits about him during his lightning visit to Hong Kong on Monday, the day of the handover to China, he will notice something. Just as the Labor Party has taken Thatcherism on board, Governor Chris Patten's successor, Tung Chee-hwa, has hoisted the flag of Pattenism."

Mirsky says: "Consider what Mr. Tung and Beijing were saying at the beginning of this year. 'Love of China and Hong Kong' were political mantras. Stability' was the watchword. Free speech, demonstrations, and the registering of 'political' societies, such as Amnesty and Greenpeace, were to be monitored by the police, and the press was warned to shun 'subversion' and 'treason.' Yet for the past three months such language has either been moderated or replaced by assurances that virtually everything will remain as it is."

The writer says the new moderation has many causes: "Tiananmen, in 1989, sparked off fear of China in Hong Kong and drove a million people into the streets." And "Additionally, the public made clear its demands for civil and human rights." He writes: "Then there is international pressure." Mirsky concludes: "As the last British Governor leaves Hong Kong on Britannia next week, he bequeaths the colony a political legacy which Beijing can no longer throw overboard."

WASHINGTON POST: Hong Kong Will Ride Global Trend To Political Pluralism

Keith B. Richburg writes in today's Washington Post that outgoing Governor Patten remains optimistic about Hong Kong's future. Richburg says in a news analysis: "With six days left before his duty ends and Hong Kong is handed back to China, Governor Chris Patten said (yesterday) he is satisfied that his sometimes tumultuous five-year tenure has left this territory freer and more self-confident than before, and that the democratic space he opened cannot be easily closed again."

Richburg writes: "The incoming Chinese administration already has approved a package of laws, due to take effect after midnight of June 30, that will roll back some of Patten's electoral and civil liberties reforms that came in the final years of British rule. The present legislature, the most democratically elected in Hong Kong's history, will be scrapped. New laws will place tougher restrictions on political protests. And old colonial-era laws requiring all organizations to register with the government will be reinstated."

The writer quotes Patten as saying, however, that "he is confident that political pluralism -- not Singapore-style authoritarian government favored by proponents of what is called 'Asian values' -- is the wave of the future, and that prosperous Hong Kong, with its well-educated and affluent population, is riding that global trend."

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: Hong Kong Will Remain Safe Investment For West

In the United States, the president and chief ratings officer of Standard & Poor's Ratings Services, an international credit reporting agency, comments today that S&P's analysis shows that Hong Kong investment remains a good risk. The analyst, Leo C. O'Neill, writes: "The restoration of Hong Kong to China at midnight on June 30 makes investing in the territory a much riskier venture, right? As the old Gershwin song goes, 'It Ain't Necessarily So.' "

He says: "First, it's important to realize how strong the incentives are for China to permit Hong Kong the high degree of autonomy it has promised in the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region." O'Neill says: "Second, Hong Kong's wealthy, dynamic economy shows no signs of slowing down." He writes: "Third, Hong Kong's continued prosperity is key to the success of China's 'one country, two systems' policy, under which it hopes ultimately to reestablish ties with Taiwan. China's desire for a peaceful reunion with Taiwan would be dashed if Hong Kong suffered under its rule."

O'Neill writes: "In view of this, Standard & Poor's was comfortable in upgrading Hong Kong's credit rating from "A" to "A+" last month, 40 days prior to the return of the territory to China." He concludes: "The flags flying over the Government House in Hong Kong will be different, but there is good reason to believe that it will be business as usual on the streets and in the skyscrapers. The risk of investing in this freewheeling, bustling territory of China will not be higher than when it was a freewheeling, bustling colony of the United Kingdom."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: U.S. Congress Retains China's Trade Status

Writing today, Tyler Marshall and Jim Mann analyze the meaning of a vote in the U.S. Congress to retain normal trade relations between the United States and China. They write: "After four hours of often heated, emotional debate, the House (of Representatives, the Congress' lower house) (yesterday) rejected attempts to sever normal trade relations with China. (The) outcome, which earlier had been judged by both sides as too close to call, also is a victory for President Clinton, who personally urged Congress members in a White House meeting last week not to suspend China's routine trade privileges, known by the misnomer of most-favored nation trading status, or MFN."

The writers say that a factor in the vote was that prominent Hong Kong figures urged the United States to maintain its China trade relations. These included Martin Lee, chairman of Hong Kong's Democratic Party; Anson Chan, the island's chief administator; and Chris Patton, the British colony's governor.