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Chinese join tirade against Patten

Chinese officials and pro-Chinese newspapers in Hong Kong have joined British critics in condemning Governor Chris Patten for suggesting that full British citizenship should be granted to 3.5 million British passport holders in the colony.

Hong Kong's three Peking-controlled papers carried lengthy commentaries accusing Mr Patten of trying to sour Sino-British relations before next month's visit to Britain by the Chinese Foreign Minister, Qian Qichen.

The Hongkong Commercial Daily said the Governor was intent on "creating trouble". Ta Kung Pao said Mr Patten was constructing obstacles in the path of a smooth transition from British to Chinese rule.

Chinese officials in the colony were slightly more cautious. Chen Zuo'er, the leader of the Chinese team at the Sino-British talks on transitional arrangements for the colony, wondered aloud why the Governor had "put on this show". He said that the Governor's plea for British citizenship was a direct violation of Sino-British agreements.

Mr Patten said yesterday that he was "surprised that nobody seemed to know that [this policy] had been the Hong Kong government's position for the last six years".

The policy was initiated by the former Governor, Lord Wilson, who went to London to make the case, settling instead for a more limited scheme granting 50,000 full British passports to heads of households filling key jobs in the colony.

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