Hong Kong protests: Theresa May urged to confront China over violent clashes sparked by extradition bill

Ex-governor Chris Patten says UK approach 'driven by fear and greed' - as he calls on government to press for public inquiry

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 18 June 2019 14:22
Former Governor of Hong Kong Lord Patten says Theresa May should confront China

Former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten has urged Theresa May to confront China over the violent demonstrations in the territory, to prove her policy is not “driven by fear and greed”.

The former Conservative chairman hit out at the unwillingness of the “British political caste” to speak out over the clashes triggered by moves to allow extraditions to mainland Chinese authorities.

Lord Patten noted that a former Australian prime minister said the world’s approach to the rising giant that is China was “driven by fear and greed”.

“I think there has been more than an element of that in the way that we have dealt with Chinese delegations,” he protested.

Speaking to the BBC, the last governor – before the territory was returned to China in 1997 – said he was “quite emotional” about what was happening and the UK’s continuing role.

Violent clashes broke out on 12 June when police tried to stop protesters storming the city’s parliament, as tens of thousands took to the streets in a show of strength against the extradition bill.

“I wish that the British political caste was rather more serious about how we deal with it,” Lord Patten told the BBC, “both by hauling the Chinese ambassador in to complain about the fact that he said the joint declaration doesn’t apply anymore, also by making it clear that we think the government in Hong Kong should withdraw – and not just suspend – the extradition agreement and by pressing for a public inquiry into the way the police have handled the demonstrations.”

Next week, Ms May will meet Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, at a meeting of the G20 leading group of nations in Japan, in her final major appearance as a world leader.

“I hope the prime minister, in one of her last acts as prime minister, when she goes to the G20, will complain explicitly to President Xi about what has been happening,” the peer added.

The extradition bill is the latest in a string of recent controversies between Hong Kong and China, with Beijing accused of obstructing democratic reforms, interfering with elections and of being behind the disappearance of critical booksellers.

On Tuesday, an alliance of Hong Kong activists repeated its demand that the city's leader, Carrie Lam, scrap the extradition bill and resign.

If she refused to agree, protesters would begin a "resistance movement" early on Friday, the alliance said – one group claiming more than 35,000 members.

An estimated 2 million people marched against the proposed legislation on Sunday, slowing subway trains by blocking doors among other tactics.

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