Lu Ping sings the praises of 'sinner' Patten

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 July, 2007, 12:00am

Lu Ping, a retired mainland official formerly in charge of Hong Kong affairs, appears to have reversed his harsh verdict on last governor Chris Patten, whom he once called 'a sinner for a thousand years'.

Mr Lu, speaking on Phoenix Television, praises Lord Patten as a brilliant and resolute politician.

The former director of the Hong Kong and Macau Office under the State Council also says he appreciates that Lord Patten's strong approach towards Chinese affairs was because of a change in British policy, rather than his personal will.

Without referring to the Tiananmen Square crackdown, he says the U-turn in Britain's China policy came after 1989.

'After 1989, Britain's China policy changed from one of co-operative to one of confrontation,' Mr Lu says, citing the lingering row over the construction of the Chek Lap Kok airport and other related infrastructure projects.

Hong Kong was hit by a confidence crisis after the Tiananmen Square crackdown. The colonial government decided to boost the economy by investing in mega-infrastructure projects, including building the Chek Lap Kok international airport.

Beijing at that time had opposed the idea, fearing Hong Kong would drain its fiscal reserves. The airport project was eventually given approval after years of discussions between Britain and the mainland.

In the television interview to be broadcast tomorrow, Mr Lu also says part of the problem with the governance of former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, Hong Kong's first post-handover leader, was that he was not good at playing politics.

'Mr Tung is a righteous man. He is a responsible man and he wants to do something for Hong Kong,' Mr Lu says. 'But he is not a politician. I have always said, this nice guy is not good at politics.'

He says Mr Tung's victory in the 1996 chief executive election was 'a fulfilment of the people's hope', adding that Beijing had not intervened with the election.