GOVERNOR Patten received the backing of the British press yesterday - coupled with plenty of advice on how to handle China over the next few weeks. Mr Patten's speech had second billing after the Conservative Party conference in the media, and the more serious newspapers evaluated its contents. The Times said Mr Patten's decision to widen the franchise had ''the ring of true leadership''. It said: ''Elections in Hong Kong must be made open, locally acceptable and impossible to rig - and China must agree not to eject those elected under the 'through train'. ''Anything less would bring corruption, endanger the rule of law and put at risk many of the freedoms guaranteed in the Joint Declaration.'' The Guardian said there was still hope that under the threat of Mr Patten's apparent deadline the Chinese might concede something in the end. It added: ''It is a high-risk strategy which will need a miraculous Chinese change of heart to succeed, and might still leave Hong Kong's political reform in tatters. Yet the alternative would be three years of terminal uncertainty.'' The paper said the through-train concept was worth struggling for - but not at any price. For The Daily Telegraph the issue was the degree of control which a Third World giant should have over a territory where economic policies and the rule of law had created conditions for growth matched by few other countries since the war. It said relations could get worse if Mr Patten lays draft legislation on elections before Legco in the next couple of months. ''That is the right forum to decide the fate of the Governor's proposals.''