• Mon
  • Sep 22, 2014
  • Updated: 6:36pm
Universal Suffrage
NewsHong Kong

Britain has ‘moral obligation’ to speak up on Hong Kong, says ex-governor Chris Patten

Vetting of chief executive in future elections 'more or less' what happens in Iran, says Patten as he urges London to speak up

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 September, 2014, 9:45am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 September, 2014, 2:58am

It is London’s “duty” to speak up on Beijing’s recent decision about Hong Kong’s political reform because Britain has a “moral obligation” to the city, according to a former colonial governor of Hong Kong.

In an article published in the Financial Times, Chris Patten also stressed that even if there were “commercial consequences” for speaking up – referring to trade ties between Britain and China – they should not “be an overriding concern when our honour is on the line”.

“The Joint Declaration under which the territory passed from British to Chinese rule guaranteed Hong Kong’s way of life for 50 years after 1997 … As successive British governments have accepted, the UK has a continuing ‘moral and political obligation’ to ensure that China respects its commitments,” Patten said.

The Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed on December 19, 1984, stipulated that Hong Kong shall enjoy a high degree of autonomy under the “one country, two systems” principle after its re-unification with China on July 1, 1997.

“We have a huge stake in the wellbeing of Hong Kong, with a political system in balance with its economic freedom. I hope these questions will be resolved in a way that does not jeopardise the city’s future,” Patten said.

On Sunday, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee ruled that while Hong Kong can pick its chief executive by “one man, one vote” in 2017, a 1,200-member nominating committee will only put forward two or three candidates who have won the support of half of its members.

Pan-democrat lawmakers criticised the decision as “unacceptable”, because the nomination threshold was only one-eighth when a 1,200-strong Election Committee nominated and elected Leung Chun-ying in 2012.

Patten echoed the pan-democrats’ criticism and wrote that Beijing’s decision would “prevent democrats and others of whom China might disapprove from seeking election”.

“Such vetting is more or less what happens in Iran,” the former governor wrote, describing it as a “denial” of democracy.

“On this occasion my comments are not directed principally to Beijing or Hong Kong’s democrats. What a former Hong Kong governor can more legitimately do is to invite an interrogation of Britain’s sense of honour. It may not be welcome to ministers, at a time when so many appallingly difficult international issues crowd their agenda, to remind them that we have moral responsibilities for what happens in Hong Kong,” Patten said.

Patten concluded that: “The British government will comment on Beijing’s plan. This would not be a provocation but a duty. No one can seriously believe that this would have commercial consequences, or that such consequences should be an overriding concern when our honour is on the line.”

Separately, the Democratic Party’s founder chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming told RTHK on Wednesday morning that some British lawmakers had planned to launch an inquiry on the implementation of the Joint Declaration before his visit to the UK in July.

“Some MPs had told me they were planning to launch an inquiry [but] it was not launched because of our visit,” Lee said.

Lee added that he could not predict how the British government would react to the inquiry, but he believed that UK lawmakers would conduct it fairly and a debate would be held in parliament.

Lee also reiterated that the NPC Standing Committee had failed to follow its procedures to have laid a stringent framework for the city’s political reform.

And Beijing could amend the framework anytime if there was strong demand from Hongkongers, he added.

“Things could still change as long as it has not become law formally,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the United States “supports universal suffrage in Hong Kong in accordance with the Basic Law and the aspirations of the Hong Kong people”.

“We believe that an open society with the highest possible degree of autonomy and governed by rule of law is essential for Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity,” she said.

It was the second time that Washington had commented on political reform in Hong Kong since Beijing made the decision on Sunday. Tokyo and Taipei also gave their views on the matter but London has yet to give any comment.

The Kyodo News reported earlier that the Japanese government is concerned about political development in Hong Kong.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also said in a press conference that he strongly hopes that Hong Kong can remain “free and open” under the “one country, two systems” policy.



Related topics

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

For mainland commentators who consistently complain about Hong Kong being spoilt brat, if this city didn't maintain its ways under the 'one country, two system', China would not benefit from the city as an international capital raising centre, amongst other things, including high level of food safety standard.
The Basic Law bestowed us with an unrestricted flow of information, backed by a trusted, strong AND independent (hopefully) common law judiciary that is recognised *GLOBALLY*, helping maintain this city's relevance in the eyes of China and equally abroad. Think GlaxoSmithKline, BMW, Mercedes etc. All execs tout China's untapped market, but at the back of the mind, they know this market is risky.
If China really doesn't see the importance of our city, why bother launching the HK-Shanghai stock connect to the the mutual fund recognition. Just launch it in Shanghai's FTZ, right? Hong Kong's advantage took a century to build, not by the snap of a finger like how Shanghai is trying to do.
This goes back to the whole debate about democracy. Why have it? Simply answer is that by giving us the right to real right to choose our government, it ensure proper checks and balances, making sure that OUR leaders are accountable to US and not just doing Beijing's bid.
Hong Kong's success depends on having an arm's length between the two states, as envisoned by Deng. Surely, Hong Kong's success is also a win for China?
JD is China’s grace
a fig leaf for England
so that she didn’t have to flee naked
Like his mother country
all fat pang got to show
is but a tiny peanut
every time he lifts the fig leaf
If honor means anything in English
England should thank China for the charity
and keep the fig leaf where it should be
England has moral obligation not to exhibit
I wonder if Patten has the approval of Britain to offer its 'moral obligation' this way. I don't think Margaret Thatcher was as sympathetic.
Britain has a moral obligation to stuff their pie hole. If they wanted HK to be a democracy, they should have done it 25 years ago. Right now, mind your own f'ing business Britain and diarrhea mouth Patten.
Chris Patten - SHUT UP! No one listens to you, they did not listen when you were a useless member of the house and they laughed when you lost your seat and were imposed on the Hong Kong people - who before then had never heard of you. You did nothing but whine when you first arrived, moaning about the run down mansion you had to live in and did nothing to integrate yourself into the Hong Kong community - other than lunches at HK Club and weekends at Fanling - you are the worst example of the little emperor syndrome. Did you ever think to challenge Westminster to allow Hong Kong more independence and democracy - never! Now that Hong Kong has reverted to China, it's rightful ruler as agreed under the 99 year lease on the New Territories you cannot help but throw in your tuppence worth of prejudiced advice. No one is listening Chris, just as they never listened when you were dumped from your safe seat in the UK and just as they never listened when you were Governor of Hong Kong and more recently, as you were dumped from the BBC over your complete inability to run that!
patten was the mr fixer who earned his feathers when ira was still bombing london, but like Mongkok-Wong said below, he neither fixed the eu the way uk wanted it fixed, nor the bbc, nor hk, it's out of his league and too much history preceded him.
what moral obligation are you talking patten? is it moral to colonized hk for more than 100 year and reluctantly gave it back to the owner. shame on you satan patten.
How About
Today, information asymmetry is the most powerful weapon, hearts and minds can still be won even when no breach is committed. Alas Patten and UK are toothless.
Save your comments and critiques for this war-cry : www.huffingtonpost.com/anson-chan/hong-kong-turmoil-beijing_b_5760212.html?utm_hp_ref=world that if you know not HK you would think it's the event horizon and singularity all rolled into one.
Everyone should read the Basic Law. Its not very long, and it is written in very clear language. Patten and the Pan-Democrats may not like the Basic Law, or the hand they have been dealt, but read Articles 43, 45, 158 and in particular, Annex 1. Its all VERY clear. China is following the Basic Law to the letter.
How about a moral obligation to restore lands to the aborigines and remove their descendants from the other continents as well?




SCMP.com Account