Chris Patten, Hong Kong’s last colonial governor, said he hopes Hongkongers on opposing political sides will have a “dialogue” instead of talking about “killing one another”, following a university campus spat over independence.
Lord Patten of Barnes, who was at the FCC to promote his new book, First Confession: A Sort of Memoir, which explores the former Conservative MP’s “obsession” with identity politics, also spoke about Joshua Wong’s incarceration, and the future of the One Country Two Systems framework.
During a discussion about the pro-democracy and pro-independence movements in the city, Lord Patten reiterated his view that the latter would only serve to dilute any campaign to bring democracy to the city.
His visit came just days after a university row saw pro-independence students clash with their peers from the mainland over posters advocating independence for Hong Kong, which were put up at the Chinese University campus, heightening simmering tensions in the city.
“What I hope is that people will start talking to one another again. I hope there’ll be a dialogue. You can’t simply expect people to accept your values or standards or political judgements without talking to them about it. You can’t trample ideas into the dust. You have to talk to people and listen to people,” he said.
“People should be prepared to talk to one another, not fight another, or not talk about killing one another, or not putting out posters welcoming people’s suicides,” he told the packed club lunch on September 19, where guests included former Hong Kong Finance Secretary John Tsang and ex-Chief Secretary Anson Chan.
Lord Patten said he hoped Hong Kong – “a city which I love as much as anywhere in the world” – would continue to thrive.
When asked what he would do if he were the UK’s leader, he said: “First of all I’d be pleased that the last six-monthly report by the Foreign Office was a bit more honest and outspoken than some reports had been in the past. Secondly, I would begin from the assumption that we shouldn’t believe that you can only do business with China over Hong Kong or over anything else from a position of supine deference. The fact that the Chinese do it is because other countries allow them to. I don’t think it should be something we necessarily criticise them for if they can get away with it. If they can get away with weaponising trade, for example, they’ll go on doing it. But I don’t think they respect you for it and I don’t think its the only way you can do business.
“I would come to Hong Kong, I would make a speech saying that I thought Hong Kong was fantastic, that I thought it was a jewel in the crown for China potentially as we go forward into the future; that it represented in the 21st century an issue which is going to be dominant – that is how you balance economic and political freedom and what sort of role China has in the world today, what sort of role it’s prepared to take in global governance, how it’s prepared to make more of the footprint that it should have because of its economic strength and power.
“And I would hope to go on to China and say similar things.” He add that he would also raise the issue of Liu Xiaobo’s wife. Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest since her husband, a prominent dissident since the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, won the Nobel prize in 2010. She was last seen in a video recorded in August and posted on social media in which she asks for time to grieve. Many of her supporters and friends, however, have expressed concern for her welfare.
Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen also came in for criticism from Lord Patten as he was asked for his thoughts on the upcoming trials of nine pro-democracy activists involved in Occupy Central. Lord Patten said he was “loathe to comment on ongoing legal processes in Hong Kong”, and instead chose to speak specifically about Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law – jailed in August for their part in the 2014 protests.
He criticised the Justice Secretary’s decision to appeal their original non-custodial sentences, saying it was politically motivated. “He’s grown up. He must know, as I said earlier, that actions have consequences, and not to understand what signal that would send to the rest of the world, strikes me as being, to be frank, a little naive,” he said.
Referring to a Reuters report that Yuen had insisted on reviewing the sentences despite opposition from fellow prosecutors, Lord Patten added: “Perhaps it would have been wise to take the advice which we were told he was receiving from someone in his department.”
The Human Rights Press Awards are run by the FCC, Amnesty International Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Journalists Association. The ceremony took place in May 2017. Click here to see the winners.