Former envoy attacks Patten's democracy plan
Sir Percy Cradock, Britain's ambassador in Peking from 1978 to 1984, and subsequently the Prime Minister's foreign policy adviser until June last year, said Britain should reverse the unilateral and confrontational policy it had adopted since Mr Patten became Governor. 'We still could retreat,' he said. Persisting with proposals to broaden the franchise in Hong Kong risked a 'vicious backlash' from Peking.
Tomorrow Mr Patten will officially publish a draft bill to make changes in the colony's electoral system, and is due to table it for discussion by the Legislative Council (Legco) next Wednesday. Britain argues he is putting forward only the most urgent and least controversial aspects of his proposals, after seven months of fruitless talks with China, but Peking has said the start of the legislature's debate would kill off any future negotiations.
Yesterday Reuters news agency quoted Chinese sources as saying they were willing to accept the Governor's proposed voting method for the 1995 Legco elections if he held back now and resumed talks. A British source said no official offer had been made and he doubted it would be enough. Britain had proposed another round of talks in Peking from 17 to 19 December, but only to discuss matters outside Mr Patten's draft bill.
Sir Percy, who negotiated the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration on the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, told the House of Commons foreign affairs committee yesterday that China would carry out its threats to dismantle whatever Mr Patten put in place. Pursuing more democracy in the face of Chinese opposition, and to the exclusion of all else, would result in permanent damage to democracy, the rule of law and 'the attributes of an open society'. He was supported in evidence to the committee by his two successors in Peking, Sir Richard Evans and Sir Alan Donald, who agreed Britain's change in policy was a mistake.
If Britain acted unilaterally, Sir Percy said, it gave the Chinese 'every pretext' to do so themselves. The lesser evil was to abandon Mr Patten's 'high-wire act' and negotiate the best deal possible, however humiliating it might appear. The interests of Hong Kong's people came first, and any other strategy would be 'indefensibly reckless'.
Sir Percy was involved in one or two sharp exchanges with MPs, telling Bob Wareing (Lab, Liverpool West Derby) that the Joint Declaration had been 'a triumph'. When Mr Wareing demurred, he said: 'You were all very pleased at the time.' 'Not everybody,' the MP interjected. Sir Percy described as 'an extraordinary and ignorant distortion' a complaint by a former Labour Foreign Office minister, Ted Rowlands, that British policy towards China had been run by 'Sinocentric diplomats'.
- 1 Astrological signs are almost all wrong, as movement of moon and sun throws out zodiac
- 2 Dad eats daughter's weed brownies, thinks he's had a stroke
- 3 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 4 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 5 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
Germanwings captain Patrick Sondenheimer tried to break into locked cockpit door 'with an axe' as plane was descending
Amanda Knox murder conviction: Italian court overturns verdict for US student and Raffaele Sollecito in the killing of Meredith Kercher
Saudi Arabia says it won't rule out building nuclear weapons
The battle for the Middle East's future begins in Yemen as Saudi Arabia jumps into the abyss
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Germanwings plane crash: Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz wanted to 'do something people would remember him for'
£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...
£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...
£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...