The United States and Europe said yesterday they were pleased the Hong Kong government had decided to delay Article 23 legislation. Chris Patten, the European Commissioner for external relations and Hong Kong's last governor, said: 'I welcome the decision of the Hong Kong government to delay the bill enacting Article 23 of the Basic Law.' Speaking to the South China Morning Post, he added: 'I am particularly pleased that some of the more worrying elements of it have been withdrawn.' In Washington, the United States government gave a similar response. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said at a press briefing in Washington on Monday: 'We welcome the Hong Kong government's July 7th decision to respond to the calls of the people of Hong Kong and to delay action and amend Article 23 legislation. This is a positive development.' Mr Boucher said the controversy surrounding the security legislation underscored the importance of Hong Kong moving towards democracy. He urged Hong Kong to continue working for universal suffrage and a democratically elected government. Mr Patten said he was puzzled by the suggestion that the legislation was needed urgently to deal with the potential problem of subversion in Hong Kong. 'Hong Kong is one of the most moderate, responsible places in the world,' he said. 'It would be deeply sad if legislative changes were made which caused some people to question the 'one country, two systems' principle.' Mr Patten said the claim that economic success in Asia depended upon 'order' - a synonym for an authoritarian disrespect for individual freedom - was 'plumb wrong'. 'The best places to do business are those where people are free under the rule of law,' he said.