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British parliament committee members visiting H.K., China.

HONG KONG, May 9 Kyodo

Nine members of the British Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee are visiting Hong Kong and China this week to gather information on political, social, economic and foreign policy-related issues, committee chairman Mike Gapes said Tuesday.

The committee members met with Hong Kong Justice Secretary Wong Yan-lung after their arrival Monday. They met with Chief Executive Donald Tsang on Tuesday.

They will also visit Beijing, Shanghai and Tibet for a week before paying a visit to Taiwan, a self-ruled island over which China claims sovereignty.

''We are here to look at a number of issues related to China,'' Gapes told a press conference. ''We are looking at questions like human rights, economic development, social development and political change. When we are in Beijing, we will be asking questions there about Chinese foreign policy and China's role in the world.''

Gapes said they will meet with senior officials and members of China's parliament, the National People's Congress, and people from nongovernmental organizations and social groups to listen to their views on similar issues.

''I expect a wide range of views on a variety of issues. We've already had public evidence sessions in our committee hearings in London where we've had several experts and academic and NGO witnesses. We hopefully will explore some of those questions with (Chinese officials),'' he said.

On Hong Kong's political development, Gapes said the committee is not in the position to tell Hong Kong people about who should be the chief executive or how many candidates should there be in an election, but he said most people in Britain believe in democracy and the committee ''would be in favor of universal suffrage for everybody everywhere as soon as possible.''

Hong Kong was a British colony until it was handed to China in 1997.

On press freedom in China, Gapes declined to say if the committee members are going to discuss specific cases such as the case of Ching Cheong, a Singapore Strait Times reporter who has been under arrest since last August and is yet to be tried in court on espionage allegations.

He added the committee members will try to meet with religious leaders when they visit Tibet, where there has been little religious freedom since Chinese occupation in 1950.

On the balance of security in the region, especially China's relationship with the United States and Japan, Gapes said they will try to gather more information from the region as a whole.

''We are looking at China in the round, the regional context and issues, and of course, you cannot look at the strategic situation of China without taking into account the situation across the Taiwan Strait and the relationship with the United States and Japan,'' he said.

The committee members will visit Beijing on Wednesday. They will publish a report in Britain in about two months' time.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:May 15, 2006
Words:475
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