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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 July, 2004, 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK
UK stresses concerns over HK
By Chris Hogg
BBC correspondent in Hong Kong

Marchers in Hong Kong 1/07/04
Thousands took to HK's streets this month to show their dismay
The British government has reiterated its criticism of China's intervention in the affairs of Hong Kong.

In a report on its former territory, it said China was interfering in a manner inconsistent with self-governance guarantees agreed before the handover.

Beijing has recently ruled out a direct election of a successor for the territory's current leader.

The UK reports are published every six months by the Foreign Office and presented to parliament.

Diplomats insist the reports are not supposed to be critiques of how China is running the former British colony - but that is often how they are perceived.

This time the concerns British officials feel about China's intervention in Hong Kong's constitutional reform process stand out.

The British consul-general in Hong Kong, Steven Bradley, said Britain had expressed its concern about the Chinese government's approach to this issue and would continue to do so.

"We obviously have a private dialogue on these things, and we prefer to put our concerns directly rather than using megaphones - although clearly it's necessary sometimes to actually say publicly what we think," he said.

"We've made the concerns pretty clear and yes we hope they are listened to."

In recent years the report concluded with a declaration that the 'one country-two systems' arrangement - capitalism in Hong Kong, communism in mainland China, with the former colony given a high degree of autonomy to run its own affairs - was working well.

Significant change

This time there is a subtle but important difference.

The conclusion to the latest report notes only that in the past the British government has judged that 'one country-two systems' is working. There is no comment about whether or not it is working at present.

The consul-general says they are not saying it is not working, simply that having raised concerns about Beijing's interventions in constitutional reform, it is hard to conclude that it is working 100%.

It is the sort of distinction only civil servants can make, but it is still significant - if only because it is the first time Britain has put on record in this way its concern that 'one country-two systems' might be under threat.

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