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Hong Kong localism and independence

Hong Kong will have democracy sooner rather than later, says Chris Patten

Last colonial governor also says arguing for city’s independence makes it easier for Chinese officials to hit back

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 December, 2016, 8:04am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 December, 2016, 8:04am

Hong Kong’s last colonial governor believes the city will have its democracy “sooner rather than later”, but will not become independent of China.

In a pre-recorded television interview with broadcaster RTHK, Chris Patten said that Hong Kong had all the components of a democratic society and only lacked the ability to choose its own government.

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“[If] you ask me, will Hong Kong sooner rather than later become democratic and free in other ways? My answer is yes of course it will, because that’s what the future is going to be like,” Patten said.

The former governor, who is wrapping up his brief visit to the city, has spoken out against advocating Hong Kong independence at several forums in the past week.

This came as the Court of Appeal dismissed two localist lawmakers’ appeals against their disqualification on Wednesday, after they swore allegiance to a “Hong Kong nation” in taking their oaths in October.

Patten said such pro-independence antics had “diluted” support for the city’s democracy.

“What I worry is that by allowing the campaign for democracy to be transposed into an argument for independence, which is never going to happen, support for democracy is diluted,” he said.

“Instead of Chinese officials having to argue against democracy, they’re given a much easier job of arguing against independence.”

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Patten also disagreed with the argument that the “one country, two systems” principle had been eroded given recent events such as the disappearance of five booksellers who published books critical of Beijing.

“If [there wasn’t an independent judiciary] ... there was no free press and people who spoke up about the inadequacies of the government were locked up, if that was happening, then I might agree that “one country, two systems” hadn’t worked. But Hong Kong’s not like that.”