Future leaders will not alter HK values - Patten

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 June, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 June, 1998, 12:00am

Hong Kong's future leaders will not be able to steer people away from the ideals which have served them so well, whether these ideals are social, economic or political, Governor Chris Patten said.

Though critical of the long transition period which caused confusion in people's minds over who held the power between the incoming and outgoing administrations, he said he had faith in the future, while recognising there would be an emphasis for change.

'I'm not suggesting there aren't any problems but, by and large, things have worked out effectively. I would expect, after July 1, to see a great deal more emphasis on continuity,' he said.

The setting up of the provisional legislature had hindered, not helped, the transition, he said.

'It would have been better if it had not started work on pieces of legislation which give the impression that the incoming government is nervous about stability in Hong Kong and about the exercise of freedoms in Hong Kong,' he said.

People's concerns about border privileges given to the People's Liberation Army led to the first protest against the troops in Hong Kong.

But a truck full of soldiers ignored demonstrators hoping to give them a petition and drove into the Prince of Wales Barracks, home to many of the advance party.

The protest was led by legislator James To Kun-sun who wanted advance party leader Major-General Zhou Borong to clarify an incident where he allegedly berated Customs officers for stopping him at the border.

'They [the PLA] have their ways of doing things. But if the public are concerned, they should give them reassurance,' he said.

A special security panel meeting, chaired by Mr To, was to be called the following day to demand the Government reveal what privileges were being given to the PLA.

An investigation into the November 1996 Garley Building inferno where 40 people died, many trapped in their upper floor offices, found the blaze was started by careless welders who took no fire precautions, despite having set alight some materials a few hours earlier.

The report by inquiry chairman Mr Justice Woo Kwok-hing also confirmed that sparks and molten metal from the lift-shaft welding started the fire in the second floor lobby where combustible materials including wood and newspaper were stacked.

The previous work on the lift and notices put up urging people not to worry if they smelled smoke or burning had done much to affect tenants' reaction to the fire.

'Their prior experience with smoke and smell from the welding work and their knowledge of the notice lulled them into a false sense of security,' the report said.

Possibilities of Hong Kong's skyline changing arose with news that the Lai Sun Group was set to take control of the Furama Hotel in Central, next to the Ritz-Carlton owned by Lai Sun Hotels International.

Analysts believed the hotels could be redeveloped into office space, which would give a much higher return.

Overseas, Pol Pot, the dictator of the Cambodian 'killing fields', surrendered to his own Khmer Rouge soldiers, and would stand trial, military chiefs said.

The despot, under whose reign more than two million people died from torture, starvation and disease, had not been seen in public for 17 years and there was confusion about his fate.

WHAT THEY SAID 'I think a six-month transition is far too long. Presumably the Chinese side decided on a six-month transition, as it were, to get a foot in the door as early as possible.' Governor Chris Patten in a Post interview FOR THE RECORD The Hang Seng index stood at 14,203.89, down 103.26 points.