HK vote for Patten reforms on knife edge

THE Governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, is lobbying frantically ahead of a crucial vote tomorrow that will determine the survival or failure of his controversial political reforms, and his future with them.

'It's on a knife-edge for Patten,' Jimmy McGregor, one of the colony's legislators, said yesterday.

Mr Patten described tomorrow's vote by the Legislative Council (Legco) as 'one of the most important decisions in Hong Kong's 150-year history'. Apart from shaping political development in the last three years of colonial rule, the vote will pass judgement on the Governor's strategy of pushing for greater democracy, despite a storm of protest from China.

By last night he appeared to be heading for a very close- run victory, but the unpredictable voting intentions of some pro-Peking legislators and non-aligned Legco members make a last-minute upset possible. Defeat would be a political disaster both in Hong Kong and Britain, leaving Mr Patten a 'lame duck' in the run-up to 1997.

The tension within Legco, however, contrasts sharply with scepticism on the streets. Two years of acrimony with Peking, 17 fruitless rounds of Sino-British talks and the extreme complexity of the voting system have left the average Hong Kong person more interested in the World Cup, polls say. 'I now detect a weariness,' Mr Patten wrote in the Sunday Morning Post.

The picture is further complicated by the recent revival of talks with China on non- political items, such as funding for the new airport and a possible agreement on Hong Kong's future defence sites. Hopes that the first deals would be struck yesterday, however, were dashed when the current session of the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group was adjourned for a second time, this time until Thursday. The timing led some legislators to attack China for seeking to put pressure on Legco members.

On the table are the original reform proposals announced by Mr Patten nearly two years ago, which seek to widen the franchise as much as possible short of direct elections, and a total of 14 rival amendments that span the political spectrum. In practice, the only possible alternative to the Governor's package is a proposal from the pro- business Liberal Party to water down his reforms so much that Peking might find them acceptable.

The survival or otherwise of his original proposals comes at a critical time for Mr Patten, who is now under fire from pro-democracy legislators for his reluctance to confront China on other issues: his rejection of a human rights commission for Hong Kong, refusal to back freedom of information legislation, and blocking visas for exiled Chinese dissidents.

Lobbying has been intense, but it is now a matter of numbers among the 59 legislators. With the pro-democracy parties, some independents and the three government ex- officio members, Mr Patten can count on at least 27 votes. The Liberals probably have about 24. The decision depends on which way the independents jump, and whether the pro-Peking legislators vote for the Liberals. If they abstain, they will hand victory to Mr Patten.

Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
premier league
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Life and Style
fashionAlexander Fury's Spring/Summer 2015 London Fashion Week roundup
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late on stage in Brixton show
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam