China's MFN Status Described as Unsure: Hong Kong Governor Cites Hill Ire

Article excerpt

The renewal of China's most-favored-nation (MFN) status is still in doubt despite support for the policy from both the White House and key Republicans, the governor of Hong Kong said yesterday.

"I think it's still very much to play for," Gov. Chris Patten said in an interview with reporters and editors at The Washington Times. "I think there is a mood in Congress that people would like to do something" to show their displeasure with China.

Even though China's MFN status is backed by President Clinton and Sen. Bob Dole, his likely opponent in November's presidential election, Mr. Patten said he was concerned that the prized trade status could still be revoked by the U.S. Congress.

"I do detect very real frustration and annoyance [on Capitol Hill] with China," said Mr. Patten, who rattled off a list of contentious U.S.-Chinese issues ranging from Taiwan to Tibet.

Mr. Clinton has said he will renew China's MFN status when it expires on June 3. Congress has 90 days to pass a resolution that would block the renewal.

Mr. Patten left Washington last night after a three-day visit in which he repeatedly and forcefully spoke in favor of China's MFN status.

Since his appointment in 1992, Mr. Patten has alternately been praised and criticized for speaking plainly on a number of issues related to China's obligations in Hong Kong.

Mr. Patten said that while he understands the United States has legitimate concerns about China's stand on a number of issues - among them human rights, weapons proliferation and intellectual piracy - revoking Beijing's MFN is not the proper way to address them.

The renewal of China's MFN is crucial to Hong Kong's continued stability and prosperity, said the man who will go down in history as the colony's last British ruler.

"I'm not here to make the case for China's record," Mr. Patten said. "What I'm here for is to ask people to consider the consequences of MFN not being renewed."

Mr. Patten said the 6 million people of Hong Kong already face an uncertain future when the colony reverts to Chinese rule next year. And in the current "wait-and-see" atmosphere, he said, Hong Kong's powerful business community will certainly react badly to any U. …