Former governor Chris Patten has thrown his weight behind his former top aide, Anson Chan Fang On-sang, amid recent doubts over her loyalty to the Chief Executive. And in a challenge to Tung Chee-hwa's conservative views on democracy, Mr Patten said Hong Kong was ready for full democracy earlier than allowed in the Basic Law. Speaking on RTHK yesterday, Mr Patten, who is now the European Union's External Affairs Commissioner, leapt to the defence of Mrs Chan, who was told by Vice-Premier Qian Qichen last month to 'better support' Mr Tung. 'We know that they [Mrs Chan and the civil service] are among the finest in the world . . . having had a couple of meetings with Mr Qian myself, the version of which I saw in the newspaper doesn't strike me as being very typical of his sort of behaviour. But I'm absolutely convinced that the Hong Kong civil service is outstandingly good. I'm sure Tung Chee-hwa is extremely grateful to have such a good number two.' On democracy, Mr Patten said he believed Hong Kong was ready to choose its own Chief Executive and legislature via one-person, one-vote. 'Hong Kong is ready pretty well for anything. Hong Kong is an extremely sophisticated and very responsible community. The Basic Law allows for a development of democracy from 2007. I would have liked to have seen the development of democracy rather before 2007.' Mr Tung has said more time is needed for a mature view to develop and he remains non-committal on introducing universal suffrage by 2007. Mr Patten said whether full democracy could be achieved by 2007 would depend on how much the Government listened to the public. 'People in Hong Kong would like to see a faster pace of democratisation.' He pledged to strengthen ties between Europe and Asia during a luncheon with the European Chamber of Commerce. He met Democratic Party chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming, Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong chairman Tsang Yok-sing and Liberal Party chairman James Tien Pei-chun.