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The shock of last week's events may spur London to take swift action on representative government. If it does, it may be only to dodge a more explosive issue: whether to give 3.5 million Hong Kong citizens who hold restricted British passports the right to resettle in Britain. But the government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is appalled at the prospect of millions of immigrants flooding Britain, and so far has ruled out any drastic change. Declared Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe: "We could not easily contemplate a massive new immigration commitment."
Amid Hong Kong's anger at China, there is growing resentment that Britain is failing to provide the leadership the colony needs during this tense period. The colonial government is rapidly losing its moral authority, as citizens conclude Britain isn't listening to them. Last week Governor Sir David Wilson finally flew to London to plead Hong Kong's case. Although Thatcher is willing to relax the rules a little and is expected to announce some details this week, Wilson did not receive the kinds of reassurance the colony desperately seeks.
In the end, Britain cannot restore what Beijing has destroyed: Hong Kong's faith that China will keep its word. The events in Tiananmen Square have deeply alienated a people only reluctantly willing to accept China's embrace. It is a sad and disturbing irony that at the very moment Hong Kong has discovered its affinity with the Chinese people, it has also seen the ugly side of its prospective governors. Says Dame Lydia Dunn, the senior member of Hong Kong's governing Executive Council: "In one week China has wiped out what it had accomplished in ten years. Fears now have to be recognized."