CHINA yesterday hit back at Governor Chris Patten for his tough stance on the territory's political development in the run-up to 1997. In the latest burst of political cross-fire, the official China Daily rebuffed an article written by Mr Patten, and criticised him of trying to extend Britain's influence beyond 1997. In a letter in the January edition of The Spectator magazine, Mr Patten had explained the British approach over the Hong Kong issue an its link to Sino-British relations. ''Hong Kong is the largest single component in that [Sino-British] relationship, and the most important one,'' Mr Patten said. He dismissed the suggestion that Britain would give way to China's demand for fear that it would act ''thuggishly'' when its demand was not granted. Noting that Mr Patten has ''brutally accused China of being thuggish'', the China Daily article said the word ''thuggish'' should be applied to Mr Patten, who threatened to victimise China's bid to re-enter GATT. It also cast doubt on the move to attach great importance to Hong Kong. One of the possible reasons, the article said, was that ''he meant that the empire of Great Britain is really unwilling to disgorge Hong Kong, the fattest colony of Britain, to its former owner?'' Calling Mr Patten ''a worthy progeny'' of diehard British colonialism, it said he was making public his ''antagonistic'' attitude towards China without considering the effect. It also challenged Mr Patten's claim that the interests of Hong Kong was a concern of top priority for the British Government. ''It seems that this British Hong Kong Governor is even more Hongkongese than the Hongkongese,'' it said. The article again carried a subtle remark on those who tried to defend the British policy. ''But for a Chinese citizen in Hong Kong, the first and foremost thing is not to be the slave of the dying colony, but to be a Chinese people of China. The top responsibility for Britain is to adhere to the Sino-British Joint Declaration and hand Hong Kong back to China smoothly.''