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Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd has told British firms bidding for work in China to disregard threats that they would be excluded because of the row over Hong Kong.Mr Hurd was speaking to MPs on the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday.His reassurance to contractors comes after weekend reports that the Hong Kong row is jeopardising Britain's involvement in £470 billion of Chinese contracts, many of which would be for construction work.China objects to Hong Kong governor Chris Patten's plans to extend democracy in the territory before it returns to Beijing control in 1997.The Observer quoted China's ambassador to London, Ma Yu-zhen, as saying the Hong Kong dispute would mean British firms' bids for work would compare unfavourably with French, German or American rivals.Mr Hurd told the MPs: 'I would like to say that I am well aware that ambassador Ma has been seeing a number of businessmen with that message.'I am not saying that he is exceeding his brief but British businesses would be well advised not to take his words at face value.'Mr Hurd added that the Chinese could find such threats backfiring. 'That kind of discrimination for political reasons would be something the European Union would have to take very seriously.'Other China-watchers were more cautious. 'We have got to keep a very close eye on the situation,' one senior trade official told Construction News. CONSTRUCTION NEWS