Patten's visit makes waves in Hong Kong

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The Independent Online
THE FIRST return visit to Hong Kong by Chris Patten, the last colonial governor, has sent officials of the new government into a spin.

Having been described as "a criminal, condemned for a thousand generations" and "the whore of the East", it is hard for the new administration to treat him with the respect that it bestows on the succession of retired high-ranking Chinese officials who have passed through the territory.

Mr Patten arrives next week to promote his book, East and West. The embarrassment of the new order will begin the moment he lands at the airport and a decision has to be taken on whether he will be ushered into the VIP suite. This courtesy is extended to other former officials but a spokesman said that in Mr Patten's case "it will be given due consideration".

However, the government is unlikely to want to snub him so publicly. He may simply find that his former colleagues in high placs are unavailable to renew their acquaintance.

The last governor's most senior former colleague, Anson Chan, who is number two in the current hierarchy, will, conveniently, be out of town. She is trying hard to shake off a reputation for being "pro-British".

The government spokesman said he did not think plans had been made for Mr Patten to meet any of the administration's officials, including the head of government, Tung Chee-hwa, who once served in his cabinet.

However, an unofficial meeting with Mr Tung is not out of the question. Mr Patten is understood to have written to tell him of his visit.

Mr Patten will spend most of his time on book-promotion activities. The fear in the administration is that these will be accompanied by enthusiastic displays of public support in the streets, because the former governor still scores well in opinion polls while Mr Tung's ratings keep falling.

The book has been described by Peking's mouthpiece, the China Daily, as displaying Mr Patten's "anti-China obsessions" and reflecting his "dust- laden ideology". The only big social event planned for the former governor is a reception hosted by his publishers.