Hong Kong 'Thatcher's biggest compromise': China media

Chinese state media on Tuesday hailed late former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher as an "outstanding" figure who made her "biggest compromise" with the handover of Hong Kong, but said she had a mixed legacy.

The news of her death was carried on the front pages of most major Chinese newspapers, with the English-language China Daily also devoting the whole of its back page to her.

During her time in power the key issue between London and Beijing was the future of the then-British colony in southern China, where Britain's lease on the New Territories area of Hong Kong was to expire in 1997.

The signing of the Joint Declaration between Britain and China in 1984 which began the handover process was recognised as a key concession she made to Beijing, the state-run Global Times said in an editorial.

The agreement followed a brief but bloody war with Argentina in 1982 in which Thatcher "impressed the world with her hard-line stance", it added.

"But Thatcher managed to understand that China is not Argentina and Hong Kong is not the Falklands," it said. "We can say that she made her biggest compromise as prime minister in this issue."

The editorial, carried in the English and Chinese editions of the paper, added: "The complicated political environment in which she held her role, a golden era for politicians, made her outstanding."

But the newspaper said her "iron stance" could not be replicated because of the "decline in European power" and the "evolution of Western electoral culture makes politicians weak at solving domestic problems".

A decade after the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China, Thatcher spoke of her regret, saying that she had been unable to persuade paramount leader Deng Xiaoping to extend Britain's lease on most of the colony.