One of the major talking points to emerge from Governor Chris Patten's Policy Address concerned those he said lobbied Beijing about decisions in the territory in which 'their personal interests may have been adversely affected'. The Governor said the following day:'We all know who they are.' But do we? If it is common knowledge, why did reporters immediately ask for the names of these people? Why did a caller to Mr Patten's radio phone-in broadcast seek the same information? The likelihood is that a small elite in the political and business community are aware of the incident, or incidents, in which 'certain people' are said to have gone to Beijing over decisions taken by the Hong Kong Government. But the vast majority of the 6.3 million in the territory haven't the slightest clue about the identities of these lobbyists or the precise nature of their offence. Now, however, widespread curiosity has been thoroughly aroused, giving rise to gossip, rumour and speculation; most of it possibly very wide of the mark. How much better it would have been if the Governor had either made the vital point without his tantalising reference - or, having set the hare running, pursued it to the end by supplying names to let the public judge what had been going on. The importance of the issue is beyond dispute. Hong Kong has been promised autonomy and this is a freedom which should be jealously guarded. Mr Patten's point could have been made in a more general way if he felt he risked abusing privilege or decorum by nameing names. The result of the nudge-and-wink approach has been to deflect attention from the real issue, and to turn it into a political issue in a press debate about the Governor's motives. The real point is that not all the pitfalls in the future relationship lie in Beijing. Hong Kong's autonomy can be chipped away from within. Approaching centres of power in Beijing about decisions made in Hong Kong which affect the territory would have this result, and the precedent, once set, would not be easy to shake off. That is another reason why it would be a good thing for Mr Patten to spell out what he knows as a warning for the future. Comparisons with the past, though inevitable, are not very apposite. During the colonial era, decisions taken here could be challenged in London. But the territory has grown up since then, and is being called to run as much of its own affairs as possible in its own way. If the Hong Kong system is to continue to flourish, its leading citizens have to be able to distinguish between the general interests of the territory and the way in which they might advance their personal concerns - and put Hong Kong first.