Chris Patten Political reforms

MR Patten made it clear yesterday that he hoped it would still be possible to reach agreement with China on his reforms.

He told senior government officials from several countries at the Royal College of Defence Studies in London that the talks were not about speeding up the pace of democracy, but more towards ensuring that elections were free and fair.

On the first working day of his crucial week in Britain, during which the Cabinet is expected to agree the future strategy towards China, Mr Patten said he hoped agreement would still be possible.

Giving a lecture entitled Hong Kong's Role in the Asia-Pacific Region, he said the territory was playing a huge part in China's economic transformation.

Mr Patten is to attend the annual dinner of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council tonight before tomorrow's Cabinet meeting.