Donald Tsang

Democrats want timetable signed in blood, Patten says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 July, 2006, 12:00am

Hong Kong's last governor Lord Patten yesterday said he would be amazed if democrats accepted any deal on full democracy without a timetable 'written in blood'.

'I think it would be very difficult to do a deal which didn't involve a timetable,' he said at the Foreign Correspondents' Club. 'I am not privy, despite what some might say, in the discussions and deliberations of the democratic camp, but I would be amazed myself if they would find acceptable anything that didn't involve a timetable, a timetable which was written in blood, not just in raucous aspirations.'

Asked if the government's plan to reach a conclusion on a road map for universal suffrage next year was too late, Lord Patten said for any deals to work in diplomacy, as in politics, there should be a clear timeline. 'I think it's very difficult to have a deal when there is an ambition but not a calendar,' he said. 'If you tell people you are in favour of democracy but not yet, maybe next week, next year, maybe when the swallows come, people don't buy that. I think you need, just like the Middle East, lines on the map in order to make a deal.'

He also dismissed critics who said Hong Kong was not ready for democracy because people liked making money rather than taking part in public affairs. He said that to claim people were not interested in politics, only economic issues, was 'not only patronising but increasingly wrong'.

Lord Patten was speaking after a day of engagements that included tea with Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen at Government House and a meeting with children at the British Council.

The visit to his former residence was interrupted by a sudden downpour, but it did not stop him visiting Mr Tsang's prized pet koi.

'Don't look down on our hospitality. We have umbrellas,' one official said. 'And what's more, Lord Patten has been served egg tarts for tea.'

During his meeting with children at the British Council, Lord Patten was asked what it took to make a good politician. 'You have to try to tell the truth,' he replied.