Letter: Puzzling policy on Hong Kong

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The Independent Online
Sir: Having recently returned from my eighth research visit to China, I am puzzled by the thrust of current British policy in Hong Kong and, in particular, Chris Patten's insensitive and macho negotiating stance. This is no way to deal with Chinese 'face' and his advisers must have told him so.

The question that should be asked, therefore, is to which gallery Mr Patten is addressing his rhetoric. Is he gesturing to his political party back home rather than to the dictatorial politicians in Peking who need wait only another four years before they are legally entitled to re-annexe Hong Kong to the mainland?

The posturing about democracy for Hong Kong in 1992 receives vast coverage in the media but is a little pathetic when one remembers that this has been a British Crown Colony since the Treaty of Nanking in 1842. Britain has had exactly 150 years during which to introduce democracy; surely not an impossible timespan in which to achieve it? I imagine the Chinese ask themselves the same question.

Neither Britain nor the ruling Hong Kong elite had been very keen to establish a broad democratic franchise as we understand it in the West. Hong Kong Chinese autocracy had prevailed and suffocated the interests of the ordinary citizen; in four years it will be the Peking Chinese autocracy that will carry on a similar, and probably even more repressive, tradition.

If there had been a securely established experience of democracy, Peking would have found this difficult to dismantle. One must therefore look beyond the surface to divine what the real motive for the shotgun democracy request is.

Yours truly,

FRANK HELLER

London, N10

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