Patten ridicules Hong Kong turncoats

Hong Kong's Governor, Chris Patten, has decided to get personal - really personal - when attacking those who have abandoned what he regards as their previous principles and joined Chinese-appointed bodies.

Having previously tried gentle persuasion, punctuated by occasional eruptions of anger, Mr Patten now appears to have opted for a strategy of all-out attack in the dying days of his governorship.

Transforming the normally staid and rarely humourous, chamber of the colony's Legislative Council into an approximation of the House of Commons on one of the roughest days at the dispatch box, Mr Patten yesterday picked off the former members of the Governor's cabinet and others who are now supporting China's plans to change civil rights legislation, primarily the Bill of Rights.

Digging into the archives, he quoted from speeches they had made in their previous capacities supporting the Bill of Rights and warning of attacks on civil liberties. He quoted Maria Tam, a former cabinet member, now a stalwart of the new order, as saying in 1991 that she believed the Bill of Rights to be "a proper arrangement in safeguarding the rights of those who live in this territory now and in the years to come'.

And Paul Cheng, a leading business representative who has taken to mounting personal attacks on the Governor, looked sheepish as Mr Patten dragged out a speech he made in 1990 describing the Bill as strengthening "the foundations of the existing legal system by giving due recognition to the civil and political rights of our citizenry".

Yesterday's performance by Mr Patten represented his most public demonstration of anger against leading members of Hong Kong's elite whom he believes have done nothing to protect the colony's civil liberties. "These are the people", one of his officials said, "who have gone from a garden party at Buckingham Palace to a banquet at the Great Hall of the People [in Peking] without dropping into Damascus to announce their conversion".

The Governor even turned on Andrew Wong, the President of the Legislative Council, who was sitting next to him, and will tomorrow attempt to secure the presidency of the rival, Chinese-appointed, provisional legislature when it holds its first meeting across the border in Shenzhen. Mr Patten dismissively described this body as the "Shenzhen debating society".

Asked how he felt about sitting next to Mr Wong, he said, "I am a man of legendary charity", adding: "Everybody has to justify their actions, everybody has to be at ease with their conscience". Listening, the hard- smoking and hard-drinking Mr Wong cheerfully declared that he, too, was a man of legendary charity.

Mr Patten said that the rival body would create a "terrible legal muddle" and warned that the incoming government would spend its early days fighting legal battles to sort out the chaos created by having to cope with laws enacted by a provisional body while the legally constituted legislature was still in being.

Although Mr Patten had even his enemies laughing as he deployed his sharpest irony to put them down, there was no mistaking the feeling that he was also burning all bridges in a final attempt to prevent China from turning the clock back on a number of democratic and civil rights reforms.

Kerry McGlynn, the Governor's spokesman, denied that he was becoming too personal. "He's trying to make the point that there's something the people of Hong Kong can do. He's trying to put the heat on members of the Preparatory Committee [which is advising China on law changes] to get this reversed," Mr McGlynn explained.

Communications between the Governor and Chinese officials have broken down. His most senior civil servants are anxious about their future under the new regime and spending more time listening to Tung Chee-hwa, the new head of government.

They know that close association with Mr Patten will not be considered as a path to career advancement.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Content and PR

£35000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Mid / Senior

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing digital agenc...

Recruitment Genius: E-commerce Partnerships Manager

£50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a newly-created partne...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor