Hong Kong’s last governor faced a barrage of criticism from lawmakers and observers over his contradictory and illogical statements on the city’s internal affairs; they urged him not to mislead young people with his sugarcoated, neutral-at-the-surface arguments.
Being a former Hong Kong leader, he should know well his current position and not make ungrounded comments on Hong Kong affairs
Ip Kwok-him, member, Executive Council
Chris Patten paid a four-day visit to Hong Kong this week, during which he spoke on several occasions on topics ranging from lashing out at the city’s Department of Justice and praising jailed student leaders, to blaming the central government for the recent “independence” row.
At his last day’s speech at the University of Hong Kong, Patten further said the reason behind recent “independence” chaos in the city was because “what really happened since 1997 is nothing”.
Ip Kwok-him, Executive Council member and former chairman of the Legislative Council’s Panel on Security, felt the statement absurd. He said firstly Patten is in no position to comment on Hong Kong’s democracy because most of the democratic development happened in the post-1997 era. Britain was reluctant to give Hong Kong democracy until the final years of its rule, before handing power to China.
In fact, in terms of democracy, many changes happened gradually, Ip said. They included expansion of Election Committee (EC), the group of electors who is responsible to elect the city’s Chief Executive, from 400 members to 1,200, the super seats in the LegCo election and reforms in elections for EC members and District Councilors, he said.
“Being a former Hong Kong leader, he should know well his current position and not make ungrounded comments on Hong Kong affairs,” Ip said.
His views were backed by Vice-President of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies Lau Siu-kai. Lau said Patten has been out of power so long that he has no real influence on Hong Kong affairs. Making so many contradictory comments showed he is in a dilemma between winning young people’s and pan-democrats’ hearts, and posing as an objective, decent figure.
Those efforts would probably have no effect, mostly because the young people think he is an outdated politician.
Maybe that is also why Patten repeatedly spoke highly of three jailed student activists – Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang, who stormed a restricted government building in 2014 and were sentenced to six to eight months in prison for their illegal conduct.
Patten praised them as “principled young people”, adding they “represented some of the values that helped make the world a better place”.
Lawmaker Wilson Or Chong-shing described Patten’s praises as “irresponsible”, disregarding the development of Hong Kong’s younger generation.
He added that such comments would send erroneous signals to the city’s young people, misleading them to think it is proper to follow the trio’s illegal conduct as the three activists had been complimented as role models.