Chinese leaders were committed to Hong Kong's autonomy and only an accident would disrupt a smooth handover, former US Secretary of State Dr Henry Kissinger said last night. Beijing wanted the end of 150 years of colonial rule to be celebrated and send a positive message for reunification with Taiwan. 'At the risk of being called naive, but after many conversations over years with Chinese leaders, I am convinced the Chinese want to maintain the autonomy of [Hong Kong],' Dr Kissinger said in a speech to the Asia Society. But they had to deal with 'intangible' factors, including uncertainty arising from a lack of experience in dealing with a complex and pluralistic society like Hong Kong, maintaining an independent civil service and Taiwan's reaction to the handover. 'I believe the Chinese leaders mean what they say, but this is not because I am easily taken in. It is based on an analysis of what is in their self-interest,' he added. The return of Hong Kong was a 'big emotional event' for China. 'How can they want to spoil it by bringing about a collapse of confidence, of the economy and of the structure of Hong Kong? 'How can they hope to have a peaceful evolution in Taiwan if . . . it is proved that 'one country, two systems' will not succeed? 'If something happens it will be . . . an accident, unintended.'