At the end of July, Howe flew to Peking again to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Wu Xueqian. Following that session, Howe cheerfully announced that “substantial progress” had been made; theChinese talked of a “breakthrough.” At a Hong Kong press conference shortly afterward, Howe gave the first detailed outline of the emerging agreement. He mentioned, in particular, the creation of a liaison group of British and Chinese officials who could monitor the transitions.
The negotiating teams were by then putting in ten-hours days and six-days weeks in their rush to meet Peking´send-of-September deadline. As the pressure mounted, British negotiations became increasingly annoyed by the tendency of Peking´s leaders to make sweeping public statements about Hong Kong´s future. Said one British participant near the end of the talks; “How much does any of them know about capitalism? None of them has ever lived in a capitalist country.“ By then, too, the abrasive personality of the chiefChinese negotiator, Zhou, had begun to grate on the nerves of the British; one of them privately described the Deputy Foreign Minister as a dirty piece of work.“ The British delegates found Zhou condescending and occasionally downright rude, but came to respect him as a skillful negotiator.
Despite these irritations the talks had gathered such momentum by the time of Howe´s second visit that mostobservers were persuaded the deadline would be met. In fact, the negotiating teams ceased their work on September 19, allowing exactly one week to arrange the logistics of printing the agreement and holding the initialing ceremony in Peking. This week, when China´s leaders celebrate the country´s National Day to the cadence of marching troops and military bands in Tiananmen Square, in the splashiestsuch observance since the Communist takeover in 1949, Deng will be able to hold the impact aloft as a triumph over colonialism and a step toward the goal uniting all of China under the red flag.
For most of Hong Kong´s Chinese, the prospect of “freedom” from their colonial masters is not regarded with the same enthusiasm, particularly in view of Chinese dubious record on human right. The idea ofreturning to the fold of the motherland provokes complex and ambivalent feelings. Few of the colony´s residents are Communist; many of them, however, are proud of being Chinese. Says Dr. Chan Lap-Kui, 62, an American-trained former missionary: “The Chineseness is instilled in the Hong Kong people, and this identity survives our entire crises.”
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