Governor Chris Patten yesterday urged business leaders to stand up for the autonomy of Hong Kong, but dismissed calls for intervention to boost the economy. 'If you don't speak up for two systems in one country, who do you think will?' he asked at a General Chamber of Commerce lunch. 'You can give Hong Kong a lead in defending the rule of law, open and accountable government and all the other features of our unique way of life.' It was the territory's business leaders who 'made a difference' when they spoke up for the detailed promises of the Joint Declaration and on issues such as the Court of Final Appeal. They must continue to attack corruption and cronyism and support fundamentals such as a level playing field and a neutral civil service. His detractors, he said, argued 'that the rule of law does not matter too much. That business does not need the rule of law to go on making money, and that making money is all that matters'. 'The rule of law is not an optional extra,' he said. 'It is what makes Hong Kong different, it is what makes Hong Kong successful . . . without it, a lot of you would not be here.' Concerns over the rule of law had already prompted some listed companies to move their domiciles elsewhere, he said. But Mr Patten dismissed criticism from some quarters of the business community for not doing enough to stimulate the slowing economy. 'There are those, a fringe minority I have no doubt, who argue that we have got all this wrong,' he said. But doing so would damage Hong Kong's prospects and international image. 'Let me put this point in the language of a government health warning,' he said. 'Calls to change or to trim our successful economic policies can seriously damage your wealth.' General Chamber chairman James Tien Pei-chun and Liberal Party chief Allen Lee Peng-fei have called for action to aid the economy. Without naming names, Mr Patten asked: 'Who was it in 1995 that said, 'Investors fear that the economy is out of steam. We need an economic stimulus package'?' He said economic data showed policies had stood the test of time, adding: 'We have policies for all seasons.' He also dismissed arguments that the Government had overregulated and hampered competitiveness and was placing too big a welfare burden on the territory. Regulations were needed to protect savers and investors, reduce bank risks, protect intellectual property rights and enhance industrial safety. As for welfare, he asked: 'How could anyone seriously argue that Hong Kong cannot afford to devote to our welfare programmes less than 10 per cent of this year's Budget . . . when we hold world records for per capita Rolls Royce ownership, consumption of fine cognac and betting on horse races?' Mr Tien said later he was now more willing to agree that the economy was sound than he was late last year. He said the business sector supported most of Mr Patten's policies, despite differences over the provisional legislature. 'We still insist that the Government should work with the provisional legislature,' he said.