CHINA BANK LINKED TO OOCL BAILOUT

CHINA BANK LINKED TO OOCL BAILOUT

A state-owned Chinese bank contributed nearly half of a $120 million package that saved the troubled shipping empire of Tung Chee-hwa, Hong Kong's future leader, the Far Eastern Economic Review said this week.

In a statement trailing a story in Thursday's edition, the Hong Kong-based news weekly said it had resolved part of the mystery surrounding the funds that saved Mr. Tung's firm, Orient Overseas Container Line, from bankruptcy in the mid-1980s.The mainland-controlled Bank of China provided $50 million of the $120 million put together by Henry Fok, a local pro-China tycoon, Agence-France Presse reported the statement as saying.

Apart from Mr. Fok and the Bank of China, another big contributor was China Merchants, a Hong Kong arm of China's transport ministry.

Last year while campaigning for office, Mr. Tung confirmed for the first time the amount of the bailout and said the money came from ''Chinese friends.'' He has said that he did not know the sources of the money.

Neither Mr. Tung nor the Bank of China would comment on the issue, the statement said.

Mr. Tung, who was chosen by a group of Chinese appointees to replace Governor Chris Patten as Hong Kong's next leader, will take power in July when China assumes sovereignty here after a period of British rule lasting more than 150 years.

He has been a fierce champion of all China's plans for Hong Kong's future, including the scrapping and replacing of the legislature and the amendment or abolition of key human rights legislation.

The Bank of China was mandated in 1952 to manage the mainland's financial relations with other countries.

It is one of five state-owned banks that specialize in various sectors of the economy.

China's central bank is the People's Bank of China.