Hong Kong's last colonial governor sparked fresh debate in the city yesterday when he revealed that the "biggest regret" of his tenure was that Britain didn't go further to implement parts of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, particularly on elections.
Chris Patten also told The Wall Street Journal that anyone who tried to block more political rights for Hongkongers was "spitting in the wind".
But his remarks were dismissed as "meaningless" by Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, who said many changes he implemented between 1992 and 1997 were rolled back after the handover.
Signed in 1984, the declaration guaranteed Hong Kong's social and economic systems for 50 years. It said the chief executive would be appointed by Beijing based on "elections or consultations" and that Hong Kong's legislature would be elected.
Patten's attempts to increase democracy by allowing more Hongkongers to vote for lawmakers in functional constituencies saw him dubbed a "sinner of the ages" by Beijing's Hong Kong affairs chief, Lu Ping.
Patten told the Journal London spent too much time negotiating on "areas that the Chinese leadership was never going to agree to, rather than simply taking action on those points".
He added: "The only thing [Hong Kong] doesn't have is the right to elect its own government, and sooner or later it will have … anybody who tries to resist that is, I think, spitting in the wind."
DAB lawmaker Ip Kwok-him was unimpressed.
"I also regret that Patten went against the [terms] of the joint declaration and … made those [electoral] changes," he said. "I don't think anyone, including the central government, is resisting democratic development."
Patten also said it would be a "concern" and bad for the city and country if Hong Kong's independence was eroded by mainland organisations.