Tycoons, knights and Lavender: They did it their way, until the end

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The Independent Online
Simon Murray, the former Foreign Legionnaire and high profile businessmen, has been doing his best to bring together the outgoing Governor Chris Patten and the incoming Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa.

The two men got on well enough when Mr Tung served in Mr Patten's cabinet but since being appointed as the new boss contact has been minimal. Rather late in the day, some would say almost as late as Mr Patten's democracy reforms, Mr Murray had the Tungs and Pattens around for drinks to celebrate his wife's attempt to circle the globe in a helicopter. Jennifer Murray, dubbed by some newspapers as the `flying granny' is a good friend of both spouses, Betty Tung and Lavender Patten.

However Mr Murray's party, last Friday, turned out rather like the "one country, two systems" plan which has been laid down for the new Hong Kong. In this instance it was one party, two locations. Mr Patten and pals lingered on the sticky terrace while Mr Tung and pals basked in the air conditioned splendour indoors.

Finally Mr Murray persuaded them to come together for a picture. They both smiled broadly - at least while the photographer was performing his task.

Like Mr Patten, Mr Tung has had to endure a great number of parties. On Saturday night they were both aboard Britannia as guests of the Prince of Wales. Being a former shipping magnate, Mr Tung expressed an interest in a guided tour of the soon to be sold Britannia. His expert eye was much in evidence down in the boiler room which he declared was the cleanest of at least 100 boiler rooms he had visited. It is not known whether the Tung family intends to put in a bid for the very clean Britannia.

Chris Patten has been firmly told "not to blub"' by one of his aides; but the Governor's tear ducts have been severely tested by a series of last visits to Catholic churches around the colony. Yesterday the Patten family made their very last visit to the Catholic Cathedral where both the Governor and his wife performed a reading.

Lavender Patten, reading a letter from Paul to Timothy, seemed to have been given a text more suitable for her husband : "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith From now on a merited crown awaits me".

Usually the Pattens stay for coffee and biscuits with other church goers but yesterday the Governor begged off because he had Prince Charles coming to his house to perform an investiture ceremony. He explained, `the Prince of Wales does want to get on with things'.

Not only will long standing British residents, like myself, awake under the Chinese flag tomorrow morning; but on the penultimate day of British rule we were told that we have been deprived of our "right to land". This curious status gave Britons the right to stay in Hong Kong for as long as they liked after being resident for seven years.

We can still stay - but it will be easier to kick us out under the new arrangements. Fortunately for the incoming administration, the outgoing British administration did the dirty work for them and introduced a law with retrospective effect.

Is it a coincidence that the biggest single clutch of businessmen on Britain's official guest list for the handover come from the Jardine group of companies? The Jardine group, which started life as opium traders and was instrumental in the foundation of the colony, is represented by no less than four current and former Jardine executives, including two members of the founding Keswick family.

For just a few hours, it appeared as if British rule in Hong Kong was in its heyday, not about to end. Prince Charles tapped Hong Kong's three newest knights on each shoulder with his sword and pinned medals on more than 200 other people who have served the colony.

Newly knighted tycoon Gordon Wu said he would wear his insignia as a Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George after the Chinese takeover and definitely wants to be addressed as Sir Gordon. Financial Secretary Donald Tsang said his new boss, chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, will decide whether he can wear the decoration and use the title. The third knight, Briton James McGregor, has lived in Hong Kong since 1951 and serves in the governor's Cabinet.

There as little hint in the ceremony that this was the last act of the Empire. The only giveaway was the choice of music played by the Royal Hong Kong Police band, which included "Yesterday," "My Way" and "Somewhere Over The Rainbow."