'Why tinker with a Rolls?'
Chief Executive-designate Tung Chee-hwa and China were yesterday accused of trying to tinker with Hong Kong's 'Rolls-Royce' society.
Mr Patten told the Legislative Council he did not understand why the new leaders could not simply drive the vehicle away.
He said they wanted to 'examine the engine, tinker with the tyres, rather than just turn on the ignition and drive the Rolls-Royce as successfully in the future as it has been driven in the past.
'I think that causes genuine incomprehension elsewhere as well as genuine concerns,' Mr Patten said, referring to efforts to restrict the freedom of demonstration and assembly.
Minutes later, he provided an answer to his own question.
'I think it is probably the case that what makes Hong Kong motor forward so successfully, that is a combination of economic and political freedom, worries some Chinese officials, though it worries them wholly unnecessarily,' he said.
But Democratic Party chief Martin Lee Chu-ming supplied his own answer: 'Maybe they want to make sure there is no bomb planted in this Rolls-Royce.'