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Tuesday, October 15, 2019, 21:39
Chris Patten: Mischief-maker with ulterior motives of his own
By Grenville Cross
Tuesday, October 15, 2019, 21:39 By Grenville Cross

Since the former governor, Chris Patten, left Hong Kong in 1997, he has taken every opportunity to criticize his successors and to side with their adversaries. This, of course, should surprise nobody, as he used his governorship to pick fights with Beijing, and to imperil a smooth handover. Eschewing quiet diplomacy in favor of open hostility, he ensured that Sino-British relations were in a bad place in 1997, and it took some years before the damage he caused was put to rights. 

His recent activities, however, have shown that he remains as deeply wedded to his anti-China agenda as ever. He sees Hong Kong as a means of undermining Beijing, and he lends his support to anyone, however disreputable, prepared to badmouth China. His professed concern for greater democracy is, moreover, feigned, and ignores the progress made since he departed.

Whereas, for example, Patten only became governor in 1992 because his friend, then-UK prime minister John Major, favored him after Patten lost his parliamentary seat. His current successor, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, became chief executive after she was chosen by a representative nominating committee of 1,200 people. Despite banging on about democracy, Patten, moreover, is a phony, only prepared to accept democratic decisions of which he approves. 

Although, for example, the British people voted overwhelmingly to leave the European Union in a 2016 referendum, Patten thereafter used his position as an unelected member of the House of Lords to try to throw a spanner in the works. He backed damaging amendments to the withdrawal legislation, which had to be reversed later by the House of Commons. He was, of course, previously an EU commissioner, and now draws an EU pension, and the democratically expressed wishes of the British people to quit the EU meant nothing to him.

He (Chris Patten) sees Hong Kong as a means of undermining Beijing, and he lends his support to anyone, however disreputable, prepared to badmouth China

Whenever he sees difficulties in Hong Kong, Patten invariably seeks to aggravate them. In 2017, for example, after several activists were imprisoned by the Court of Appeal for their involvement in a violent unlawful assembly that left 10 security guards injured, Patten barged in with a scurrilous attack on our legal system, designed to inflame tensions.  In June, moreover, while Lam’s much-needed proposals for fugitive surrender arrangements with 177 jurisdictions were being considered, he issued an inflammatory video, intended to poison the debate and stoke alarm. Out of the 177 jurisdictions covered, he singled out the Chinese mainland alone for censure, claiming any suspected criminals sent back would not receive a fair trial. His hypocrisy, however, was breathtaking, as he knew full well that nine of the UK’s EU partners had already signed extradition treaties with Beijing, and that Bulgaria, France, Italy and Spain had all recently returned fugitives to China, without problem. If it was fine for the EU to return fugitive offenders to Beijing, and he has never suggested otherwise, there could obviously be no objection to Hong Kong, as an integral part of China, doing likewise. His video, however, suppressed all this information, and he managed to con the gullible into believing there were problems. Quite clearly, Patten was not going to let reality stop him from maligning Beijing, even if it meant Hong Kong becoming a safe haven for hundreds of criminals.

Once again, Patten has now sought to stir things up, this time over the wearing of face masks by protesters. Although, in recent times, police officers and journalists have been set on fire by gasoline bombs, mainland Chinese have been beaten up, MTR stations, shopfronts, banks and cafes have been vandalized, trains have been attacked (terrifying passengers), shopping mall owners have been intimidated, and armed mobs have spread indiscriminate terror, Patten told Sky TV that the government’s ban on protesters wearing face masks was “absolute madness”. Yet again, Patten has cynically sought to undermine Lam, who has introduced a mild preventive regulation to try to deter the thugs who use anonymity to commit grave offenses. As he knows full well, many EU states also ban face masks in protests, including Austria, Germany and Italy, and, if he genuinely disapproves, let him object to them. Of course, he has no genuine concerns, and is only singling out Hong Kong to gratify his proxies and cause problems for China. 

The police, of course, have shown huge restraint throughout the disturbances, yet Patten now seeks to paint them as trigger-happy. Although two people were wounded when pistols were fired, this was only after officers were viciously attacked by armed mobs, and nobody has been killed in four months of sustained violence. If Patten is truly concerned, let him pontificate about Iraq, where, in just four days of anti-government protests, at least 64 people have died. Just as they did in his time, officers carry firearms, and, now as then, they are fully entitled to use reasonable force to defend themselves whenever they are attacked.

Parroting his proxies, Patten has also called for a commission of inquiry, to review what has happened during the riots. Impracticality apart, this is wholly unnecessary, as we already know the answer. After he and his fellow Sinophobes whipped up baseless fears over the government’s sensible fugitive offender proposals, protests erupted, which were then hijacked by anti-China fanatics who, with foreign encouragement, declared war on society. The police then bravely defended Hong Kong against their depredations, only to be vilified for their efforts by people trying to undermine their morale. It is a simple story, yet those who advocate a commission wish to muddy the waters, and see it as a means of weakening the police at a critical time. 

Although Patten also waxes lyrical about the virtues of “dialogue”, he must know that the fanatics have no interest in this. That is why they have set preconditions that are impossible to fulfill, including the dropping of charges against those accused of criminal offenses, no matter how grave. Like him, they hate Beijing, and, like their US puppet masters, they are bent on doing whatever they can to damage China. Dialogue is the last thing on their minds, even though Lam, to her credit, has at least tried to reach out to them.

 As always, Patten is bent on mischief-making, with ulterior motives of his own to serve. He wants to harm China, not help Hong Kong. Hypocrisy and cunning apart, he has nothing to offer, and the sooner people wise up, the better.

The author is a senior counsel, law professor and criminal justice analyst, and was previously the director of public prosecutions of Hong Kong.


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