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Chris Patten: Hongkongers need to stop talking about killing one another and talk to each other

Chris Patten spoke about Hong Kong and its political issues at the FCC. Chris Patten spoke about Hong Kong and its political issues at the FCC.

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.”

Pro-democracy election success ‘a result of Beijing’s interpretation of Hong Kong Basic Law’

Dennis Kwok and Ronny Tong talked about the reverberations of Beijing's interpretation of the Basic Law at the FCC Dennis Kwok and Ronny Tong talked about the reverberations of Beijing’s interpretation of the Basic Law at the FCC

The record number of seats won by pro-democracy candidates in elections to select the committee that will choose Hong Kong’s next Chief Executive is one of the implications of Beijing’s recent controversial interpretation of the Basic Law, according to barrister and Legco member Dennis Kwok.

On the day after Hong Kong voters went to the polls, Kwok told a packed FCC club lunch that Beijing’s interference after two pro-independence candidates refused to swear allegiance to China following their election to the Legislative Council was an overt political move and warned the next battleground in this ‘far from over’ saga would be about whether others have breached their oaths.

Kwok joined former chairman of the HK Bar Association and Legco member Ronny Tong to discuss the reverberations of Beijing’s interpretation of the Basic Law – Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – at the club lunch on December 12. Tong kicked off the talk by outlining how Beijing’s interpretation merely reinforced what was already written in local law about what an oath meant and how anyone who makes a false oath or acts in breach of it should be dealt with.

tongmainHowever, he added that what the rare interpretation did “was reinforce the perception that Beijing is not trustworthy of our judicial system or the integrity of our judges”.

Kwok, who organised a protest of more than a thousand lawyers after Beijing stepped in following the oath controversy in October, criticised pro-independence ‘Youngspiration’ candidates Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching for their ‘irresponsible and childish’ actions when, during their oath-taking ceremony, they refused to swear allegiance to China, used bad language and sported banners that read “Hong Kong is Not China”.  They were later disqualified from taking office.

Kwok added that Beijing’s actions had divided a society “that’s already polarised”.

Both Kwok and Tong agreed that the pair’s behaviour had presented an opportunity for Beijing to step in and flex its political muscles, with Tong adding that he thought the Chinese government had been genuinely afraid that its Hong Kong counterpart would lose a court case requested by Chief Executive CY Leung in which he directed judges to disqualify them.

Dennis Kwok talks about Beijing's recent interpretation of Hong Kong's Basic Law at the FCC Dennis Kwok talks about Beijing’s recent interpretation of Hong Kong’s Basic Law at the FCC

The club lunch talk, entitled The Implications of Beijing’s Recent Interpretation of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, came just days after Leung announced he would not stand for a second term as Chief Executive. In a Q&A after the talk, Tong and Kwok were asked their thoughts on this latest development.

“I was flabbergasted,” said Tong: “I thought it’s just too good to be true.”

Kwok added: “I was happy for about five minutes, then I thought about all the other candidates who would come out.”

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