Hong Kong sizes up the Patten family: Raymond Whitaker finds that the new governor's face fits, but the colony isn't so sure about his daughter's skirts

NO MAN is a hero to his daughter, it seems, not even if her father, Peng Dingkang, has just become governor of Hong Kong.

'Peng Dingkang' is allegedly how 'Chris Patten' sounds to Cantonese- speakers. The second part of the name happens to mean 'stability and health', while the family name, Peng, is a common one in China.

No Chinese names have yet been chosen for the younger Pengs, but perhaps the one for 17-year-old Laura should be 'rebellious teenager'. She bounced down the steps at Kai Tak airport in a T-shirt, trainers and a denim microskirt which looked as if it had been sprayed on, causing observers to wonder if that was how she intended to appear at the swearing-in ceremony.

All the Pattens had smartened up, however, by the time they stepped off the Lady Maurine, the yacht which Laura is said to consider the best thing about her father's new job. Mr Patten, eschewing the white ducks and feathered hat governors used to wear, had changed into a fresh suit, although the trousers still sagged a little.

His wife, Lavender, was dressed in flaming red which matched the carpet, and the robes of Hong Kong's Chief Justice, Sir T L Yang. No doubt she had been told that red symbolises good luck for Chinese people.

Laura was now more appropriately clad in a navy suit, and the skirt only appeared to have shrunk in the wash. Her straw hat, at least a size too big, was jammed down over her eyes. One could almost hear her wailing: 'Mummy, do I have to wear this?' Her younger sister Alice, 12, in a demure blue dress with a sailor collar, was the only one to catch sight of a banner held up by two politics students from Britain, welcoming the girls to Hong Kong. 'Sometimes girls are more important than politics,' said one. They must have regretted the absence of the eldest Patten daughter, 19- year-old Kate, who was 'reported to be somewhere between Uruguay and Paraguay', according to her father.

During the solemnities in City Hall, Lavender and Alice sat mainly with their hands in their laps, but Laura's posture could only be described as a slouch. Her legs were askew and one arm dangled over the side of her chair. Given the intense interest the Hong Kong media is likely to show in all the Pattens, it may be just as well that she will be returning to England after the summer holidays to continue her A-levels in theatre and religious studies.

Today Mr Patten will visit some of the less glamorous parts of Hong Kong, such as Mong Kok, where 71-year-old Yip Mun was putting up his clothing stall. Yes, he said, he knew of the new governor's arrival, and hoped he would do something about inflation, which has been in two figures for four years.

Contrary to claims by the territory's elite that the common people do not want conflict with China, Mr Yip said Mr Patten should be tougher on such questions as human rights. 'Britain is all words and no action. They should be more like the Americans.'

Mr Yip came to Hong Kong from China half a lifetime ago. Bobo Chen, 37, who manages the Fat Kee (Good Fortune) clothing shop, was born and bred in the colony. 'I have never thought about emigration - in any case, I don't have the money.' Although she put prosperity first, she wanted more democracy.

Tina Yung, a 13-year-old schoolgirl, was smuggled out of China by her parents when she was only three. 'I am frightened about 1997,' she said. 'I definitely want to leave.' What did she think of Britain? 'At least they are better than the Chinese.'

At Wong Tai Sin Buddhist-Taoist Temple, which honours Hong Kong's 'patron saint', worshippers were shaking bundles of burning incense sticks as they prayed for the future.

Liu Tin, one of hundreds of soothsayers in the precincts - he specialises in physiognomy - said many people asked him about emigration, but he thought Mr Patten's face boded well. 'His features are balanced. That means a good foundation for Hong Kong, especially when it comes to preserving our way of life for the next 50 years, and his chin curves upwards, which signifies good fortune.' Laura, presumably, would be elaborately unimpressed.

Leading article, page 20

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there