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Chinese diplomat who oversaw Hong Kong handover dies

A former Chinese vice premier and top diplomat who oversaw the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China has died in Beijing aged 90.

Qian Qichen died of an unspecified illness on Tuesday night, the Xinhua News Agency said.

The Shanghai-born veteran diplomat was chairman of a committee China appointed to prepare for Hong Kong's change of sovereignty in 1997.

Mr Qian was also the country's top foreign affairs official in 2001 when relations with the United States took a steep downturn after a US navy surveillance plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet over the South China Sea.

The Chinese plane crashed, killing the pilot.

Mr Qian's diplomatic career started in 1955 when he worked in the Chinese embassy in Moscow, returning home in 1963.

Xinhua said Mr Qian, who spoke English and Russian, was "an outstanding leader in diplomacy of the country".

AP

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