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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook
Press briefing, H.M.S. Britannia
Hong Kong, June 30, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman in Hong Kong
July 1, 1997
U.S. Department of State

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SECRETARY COOK: Good morning. This morning, the Secretary of State of the United States and myself have had a very good exchange. We focussed mainly on Hong Kong and on its future. We are both confident that Hong Kong can have a prosperous future and a free future if the terms of the Joint Declaration are adhered to. We are particularly concerned that as from midnight tonight the elected Legislative Council will be dismissed and replaced by a provisional legislative council. I am very grateful for the support the United States has shown to Britain on this issue and I am very pleased that tonight Madeleine Albright will be joining Tony Blair and myself in absenting ourselves from the swearing-in ceremony of the provisional Legislative Council.
After tonight what is important is that democracy is restored to Hong Kong. That is why we are both agreed and are both saying to the members of both the Hong Kong government of the future and the representatives of the Government of the People's Republic of China that there must be restored to Hong Kong free and fair elections for a new democratic legislative council as soon as possible and, in any event, within twelve months. We are both agreed that we will maintain close contact on this and will also be remaining in close contact with the people and government of Hong Kong to make sure that Hong Kong does have a future that is both prosperous and free and democratic. Madeleine, would you like to say some words?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes, thank you very much. We have just had one in our growing series of increasingly close and good meetings and I must say that I hope that Foreign Secretary and Governor Patten and the people of the United Kingdom feel very proud of the legacy that they are leaving in Hong Kong. They leave behind a Hong Kong that has become one of the great wonders of the world, a society that is proud, prosperous, safe and free. The success is a product both of the enterprise of the Hong Kong people and the British commitment to good governance. They will inherit a respected civil service, an independent judiciary, vigorous democratic institutions and the freest economy in the world.
Hopefully these leaders will understand that the Hong Kong of tomorrow must look like the Hong Kong of today. That is, a Hong Kong that is free and a Hong Kong in which personal freedoms exist and will not be squeezed out. Accordingly, I join the Foreign Secretary in expressing our expectation that China will keep its word and maintain Hong Kong's autonomy and way of life for decades to come. Certainly the United States will continue to pursue our interests here, including our support for democracy, long after the handover ceremony has been completed and the partying is done.
The Foreign Secretary and I have taken advantage of this meeting to discuss a number of other issues. We talked about the NATO summit in Madrid and we talked about the situation in the Balkans. We will continue to have those kinds of discussions as we seem to meet weekly.
QUESTION: Let me ask both of you today, with the handover coming so soon now, in a matter of hours, how you feel about the fact that at this hour tomorrow, there will be four thousand Chinese troops and what kind of signal that sends? Mr. Foreign Secretary? Madam Secretary? What are you telling Beijing about that?
FOREIGN SECRETARY COOK: First of all, before I address the question of the People's Liberation Army, which I will come to and deal with fully, can I just say that I do think that it is important that in the reporting of this handover event that a proper balance is struck. One of the issues that does encourage me is that as we approach midnight, there is more confidence in Hong Kong's future than any of us could necessarily have predicted five years ago. You are in a city in which the stock exchange is rising, property prices are rising, investment is leaping upwards and perhaps most important of all, there are more people coming to Hong Kong, to stay in Hong Kong than are leaving Hong Kong at the present time. That argues a very strong degree of confidence in the future, and I believe that if the terms of the Joint Declaration are adhered to that the future of Hong Kong can be as good for the next fifty years as the past fifty.
The issue of the People's Liberation Army, of course, is one of concern. In terms of the Joint Declaration, the People's Republic of China has the right to stage the Chinese troops within Hong Kong, but those troops must be for external defense only. The Joint Declaration and the Basic Law are absolutely clear that the internal security of Hong Kong is a matter for the Hong Kong government and for the Hong Kong Police. Therefore, it is very important that those Chinese Units deployed here are not seen on the streets of Hong Kong where they have no place and no right in terms of the Basic Law.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that on this issue as the Foreign Secretary has said, there has been a commitment made in the agreements that were signed between the Chinese and the British Government. It is very important for the Chinese to reassure the people of Hong Kong that the way of life of Hong Kong will continue to exist. The signals that they send are very important and, while it is not a matter of what is permitted in the agreement, but the signal of reassurance, perhaps this is not the best way to get started. I think the issue here, as the Foreign Secretary has said, is the people of Hong Kong are vibrant. They are the ones that are most concerned about making sure that the way of life is protected, that they are able to continue the kind of life where market systems and democracy operate together. That is why we are going to be focusing on the future, talking to the leaders here about the necessity of moving forward with elections for a new Legislative Council and the people of Hong Kong are the best insurance that the Hong Kong of tomorrow will look like the Hong Kong of today.
QUESTION: Mr. Cook, would you be hoping now for a new start in Sino-British relations from the meeting this afternoon with President Jiang Zemin and could I just ask you, what are your personal thoughts and emotions today? Are you a little sad?
FOREIGN SECRETARY COOK: First of all, on the question of the meeting with Mr. Blair and myself will be having with the two Chinese leaders, Jiang Zemin and Li Peng, we will certainly be looking at ways in which we can have a constructive working relationship with the People's Republic of China. Yes, we do want a new start with Beijing. We want to be able to deal with each other as major players on the international scene and also as countries have quite a strong and developing economic link. Of course, central to that relationship will be Hong Kong. We see Hong Kong as potentially a bridge, not a barrier, between ourselves and China. The success, though, of building that bridge, depends on both sides standing by the Joint Declaration, which provides a firm foundation for a successful bridge between us.
As to my emotions, I think that there are two emotions that any responsible British leader would have at the present time. One is I think that we can have a degree of satisfaction at what we have achieved here in Hong Kong. We have provided the government environment in which we have seen one of the most dynamic and thriving economies anywhere in the world, achieved against the odds in an area with no natural resources. That is something in which I think Britain can take satisfaction. There are very few colonial powers could ever walk away from a colony knowing that they leave behind a higher per capita income than we have back home. Not many other countries would ever be able to say that.
Secondly, I think one has to have an attitude to the future which is one of vigilance. The arrangements that have been put in place are arrangements that should provide for both the continuing prosperity and for the continuing freedom of Hong Kong. Britain's role now must be to be vigilant, to make sure that those terms are kept. One last question, and I must go.
QUESTION: Mr. Foreign Secretary, one of your predecessors, Sir Jeffrey Howe, who actually negotiated in 1984, has now expressed discontent and concern that the way Governor Patten has altered the political life of Hong Kong. Do you think that this provides a sort of sour note for this handover? Does Britain seem split going into this long goodbye?
FOREIGN SECRETARY COOK: I have to say that one of the solid reasons for Labor's very good performance in the recent election is that we never took sides in disputes inside the Tory party.
Thank you.

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