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British to quit Hong Kong, Foreign Secretary says

British Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe said Friday that Britain will return Hong Kong to China in 1997 and will not maintain any official presence there.

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He was the first British official to state that Britain intends to withdraw from the colony without retaining some sort of administrative presence when its 99-year lease expires.

Mr. Howe also said Britain hoped to secure ''the assurance necessary for the continuity of Hong Kong's stability, prosperity, and way of life.''

But Howe told a televised news conference that after nearly two years of negotiations, Britain and China still were ''some way'' from reaching agreement on the future of Hong Kong, which has been under British dominion since 1898.

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