Consul Patten casts aside his whammies
Sunday 05 July 1992
The governor-designate of Britain's most important imperial outpost said nothing that could have offended Peking, Hong Kong, the Foreign Office, or Downing Street.
He bent his knee to Peking, but he did not kowtow. He said he hoped to remove misunderstandings; he wanted a constructive relationship with China and would deal courteously and firmly.
He talked about the 'historic importance' of Deng Xiaoping's 'one country, two systems' policy which will allow Hong Kong to remain a capitalist and allegedly self-governing Special Administrative Region after it is handed back to China on 1 July 1997.
Mr Patten said he would 'take soundings' on the difficult issues facing the colony - the airport and democracy - before announcing his policy before the legislative council in October. He gave nothing away. However, in private meetings with Hong Kong officials, businessmen, sinologists, legislators and bankers, Mr Patten has shown he plans a break with the past.
He hopes to substantially reduce Foreign Office power over Hong Kong. He told one meeting he was amazed by the volume of Foreign Office cable traffic between London and the British embassy in Peking on every aspect of Hong Kong's administration. To the horror of both British and Chinese mandarins, Mr Patten asked the Chinese ambassador in London, Ma Yu Zhen, for the personal telephone number in Peking of Lu Ping, head of China's Hong Kong and Macao Office.
One victim could be the chief secretary, Sir David Ford, whose power over recent years came to rival that of the outgoing governor, Lord Wilson. Sir David is closely connected with the multi- billion-pound airport project which destroyed Lord Wilson because it led to the humiliation of John Major. The Prime Minister had to visit Peking last year to sign a memorandum of understanding so that work could proceed. It opened the way for China's direct political influence.
Mr Patten has let it be known that if possible he would like to see a local Chinese as the next chief secretary, a civil service post equivalent to prime minister.
The new governor arrives at a time of stasis in China as bureaucrats await the outcome of the latest struggle in the Communist Party between the so-called reformers and those in favour of the status quo.
Already, though, his appointment has confused the Chinese: a former chairman of the ruling party; an outpost of the empire. Exile or conspiracy? Disgrace or promotion? Mr Major told Mr Li, his Chinese counterpart, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro last month that on matters Hong Kong there was only one man to deal with - Chris Patten - and he had a direct line to Downing Street.
Uncertainty in China, page 11
- 1 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 3 Mystery man who gave mum heart-warming note on train 'wanted to put a smile on her face'
King Salman: Just five days in, Saudi Arabia's new king has already overseen a beheading
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Mystery man who gave mum heart-warming note on train 'wanted to put a smile on her face'
Michelle Obama highlights harsh restrictions faced by Saudi women after meeting King Salman without wearing a headscarf
Chilling drone footage captures Auschwitz ahead of 70th anniversary of liberation
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...
£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...
£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...
£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...