BRITAIN is expecting to encounter resistance from China in the period leading up to the hand-over of Hong Kong to Beijing in 1997. During three days of talks in London between officials of the two countries, hostility surfaced on the Chinese side. Britain, which had hoped for a smooth transfer of sovereignty over the colony off the Chinese coast, was told not to interfere in China's internal affairs.
At a news conference, Ambassador Ke Zaishuo accused Britain of trying to sabotage the hand-over and of letting Hong Kong become ``a base for subversion against China.''
The leader of the British team, Robin McLaren, refused to respond publicly to the criticism, but his officials afterward attributed China's tough line to the atmosphere created by the crackdown on students in Tiananmen Square last June.
Chinese delegates to the meeting of the Anglo-Chinese joint liaison group on the future of the colony refused:
To postpone final adoption of the Basic Law (constitution) of Hong Kong, already negotiated by the two sides, until questions raised by the June 3-4 Tiananmen Square massacre were discussed.
To leave law and order in Hong Kong after 1997 in the hands of the territory's own police force.
To agree that Chinese troops should not be stationed in Hong Kong after the sovereignty hand-over occurs.
Ambassador Ke warned that the Basic Law for the territory would be promulgated next March, on schedule, regardless of British demands.
The meeting of the joint liaison group was the first since March. A meeting had been scheduled two months ago, but Britain demanded its postponement because of Beijing's crackdown.
China's insistence on deploying its troops in Hong Kong after 1997 has distressed the British government. London says business confidence in the territory may be shattered if soldiers of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) are stationed there.
Ke told reporters that the presence of Chinese troops in Hong Kong would be ``a symbol of sovereignty.''
Since the Tiananmen Square massacre there have been large-scale demonstrations in Hong Kong demanding that Britain prevail on China to alter the terms of the Basic Law and of the Joint Declaration issued by the two governments in 1984.
Britain's next opportunity to change China's mind about the 1997 hand-over will be in Hong Kong in December when the two sides have agreed to meet again.