Hong Kong’s last British governor offers a pragmatic view of how to fix things


The Chinese probably won’t want to be taking anyone’s advice on Hong Kong and certainly not that of Chris Patten, the territory’s last British governor, but he’s got a few ideas worth noting.

Mr Patten, who went on from Hong Kong to EU commissioner for external affairs, and is currently chancellor of the University of Oxford, is a pragmatist.

Accordingly, his suggestions bear honest consideration.

Acknowledging that the demonstrations – now in their fourth month – appear to lack a resolution is a pragmatic first step. It’s equivalent to the drunk who signs on to Alcoholics Anonymous and intones at the start of a group meeting: “Hi, I’m xxx and I’m an alcoholic.”

Acceptance would be a good start. Mr Patten suggests that Beijing recognise reality and cease to go down a “pathetic and counterproductive” path. Rather than waiting out the protesters, Chinese leaders should behave with the sophistication they claim to have, says Mr Patten. “Instead of undermining international trust with their behaviour toward Hong Kong, they would affirm their intention to uphold China’s commitments under the Joint Declaration treaty and guarantee Hong Kong’s freedoms and high degree of local autonomy until 2047.”

Additionally, they would also allow Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam to establish a commission of enquiry to examine the reasons behind the demonstrations, how they have been policed, and the occasional violence of some protesters.

Mr Patten concedes that “this is less than the demonstrators are now demanding. But I believe setting up such a panel would change the mood in Hong Kong, and would provide at least some hope of a dialogue.”