Patten slams HK independence
Hong Kong’s last British colonial governor Chris Patten attacked the city’s pro-independence movement yesterday as the push for a split with China grows over fears of Beijing’s tightening grip. Patten said he was fully behind the strengthening of democracy in Hong Kong, but accused independence activists of “making a mockery” of the issue. His comments came on the same day that two publicly elected young lawmakers, Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching, appealed against a ban against them taking up their seats in the legislature.
They were disqualified in a High Court judgement last week after they added expletives and used derogatory terms for China when taking their oaths of office in October. The High Court’s move had been preempted by an earlier intervention from Beijing which said they should not be allowed to join parliament. Patten was governor of Hong Kong when it was handed back to China by Britain in 1997 under a semi-autonomous deal protecting its freedoms for 50 years. There are deep-seated concerns that those liberties are now under threat. He said that he believed passionately in the city’s rule of law and freedoms, but dismissed the pro-independence camp as resorting to headline-grabbing “antics”. “It would be dishonest, dishonourable and reckless for somebody like me to pretend that the case for democracy should be mixed up with an argument about the independence of Hong Kong,” he told a packed room at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club during a visit to the city. — AFP