Patten's reform plan passes vital Hong Kong test

THE political reform plans of Hong Kong's Governor, Chris Patten, passed a crucial test early today when the colony's Legislative Council (Legco) approved the first part of his proposals after an intense 10-hour debate.

Mr Patten is expected to move quickly to introduce his main reform package, which is bitterly opposed by China. Hong Kong sources said they expected him to announce today that he will publish his second bill tomorrow, for debate starting on 9 March.

That is likely to mean the final breakdown of attempts to reach a compromise with Peking on Hong Kong's future. China has already said it will reverse the Governor's reforms and hold fresh elections when it takes over control in 1997.

Defeat in the legislature for the first, less controversial part of Mr Patten's proposals would have meant humiliation for him, and, almost certainly, the end of any attempt to change the way the colony is run before the handover to China. The council's members said before last night's session that they expected the measures to pass, however.

Attempts by conservatives and pro-Chinese members of Legco to postpone the debate, which would have had the effect of killing the reforms, or to water down the provisions, were all defeated.

Despite opposition from China, which resists any decision-making powers for Legco, the proposals being voted on last night did not require any great show of boldness. Most of the changes were to the composition of Hong Kong's district boards and local councils, whose powers are extremely limited. The main provision was to lower the colony's voting age from 21 to 18, which is already the situation in both China and Britain.

Legislators will face much tougher choices next time, however. Mr Patten is expected to put the proposals as he outlined them in October 1992, dropping the concessions offered during 17 fruitless rounds of talks with the Chinese last year.

The most controversial element of the 1992 package was the proposal to create nine new legislative seats to represent the main commercial and industrial sectors, in which almost all of Hong Kong's 2.7 million workers would have a vote. China regards this as an attempt to expand the number of popularly elected seats, in breach of previous undertakings by Britain.

Mr Patten's critics claim that enacting his plans will lead to a late flowering of democracy in Hong Kong, only for China to stamp it out when it takes control in just over 40 months' time. One legislator, Chim Pui-chung, told his colleagues last night that 'being a lap-dog for China . . . is better than being a running dog for the British' - but they heeded calls by liberals to resist Peking's pressure. A pro-democracy legislator, Cheung Man-kwong, said: 'Being a lonely fighter is bound to be painful, but the fruits to be enjoyed by Hong Kong people will be sweet.'

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us