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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Head Porter / Concierge

£16000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks