Patten offers would-be chiefs tips

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 October, 2011, 12:00am


He is not familiar with the two likely candidates for chief executive, but Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong, says both will need a thorough understanding of what service means in order to lead the city.

'I do not know Leung Chun-ying particularly well ... I know Henry Tang [Ying-yen] as a legislator with the Liberal Party,' said Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, the British broadcaster's governing body. 'But I had more co-operation with [then Liberal chief] Allen Lee Peng-fei.'

Former Executive Council convenor Leung and Tang, the former chief secretary, are widely tipped as front runners for the top job, but neither has declared their candidacy.

However, Patten, back in Hong Kong for the first time in three years, is not here for politics. The former governor, travelling with his wife Lavender, is launching a new English-learning programme by the Oxford University Press. Patten has been the university's chancellor since 2003.

Still, he had some advice for poll candidates: 'Understanding the profound honour of serving [the] people of Hong Kong, understanding the reason for the [city's] success are prerequisites for success. Comprehending the full meaning of 'one country, two systems' is important too.'

Patten described Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, who served as financial secretary during his term, as 'one of the greatest public servants'.

'It is impertinent for me to give a report, but he exemplified the highest standard of public service in Hong Kong,' he said.

Patten said 'one country, two systems' was more than a slogan; it was 'one of the imperatives of good governance' in Hong Kong, which enjoyed the rule of law and an independent judiciary.

He said he hoped the electoral reforms passed by the Legislative Council in June last year would 'speed Hong Kong to full democracy in due process'. He was once called a 'sinner of the ages' by pre-handover Hong Kong and Macau affairs chief Lu Ping for tweaking the electoral system to allow more Hongkongers to elect their lawmakers.

Patten dined on Tuesday night with former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang, but he said the meeting was strictly apolitical.

'We talked about grandchildren. We talked about both the past and the future. And I was reminded once again how Anson Chan has been one of the most outstanding public servants,' said Patten.

Yesterday, he went to a school in Jordan to introduce the language programme and read The Haunted Castle to children, whom he called 'little hamsters'.

He also told them about his eight grandchildren. 'Two of them are mad about dinosaurs, while the girls love princesses,' said the 66-year-old. 'I prefer the dinosaurs.'

Patten also said his penchant for egg tarts had not faded.

'I arrived in Hong Kong at 4pm and had my first [egg] tart at a quarter past five.'