CESAR Brana's name will doubtless mean nothing to anyone in Hong Kong. He is an official of a democratic European government yet in the past month his behaviour towards a small British colony would make even Beijing hardliners envious. Mr Brana goes by the grand title of the new Civil Governor of the Spanish province of Cadiz. Yet in the democratic Spain of King Juan Carlos and Felipe Gonzales he exercises his power in just the same manner as his predecessors in Francisco Franco's dictatorship of two decades ago. Drive with glasses? Then don't cross the border between Gibraltar and Spain without a second pair in case the first break. You might not be let through. You may have driven your car or motorcycle across the border freely for years but if you fail to take the registration documents now you risk a summary confiscation of the vehicle. Failing that then a queue of up to seven hours, ending in being searched twice as you enter Spain, may just wear you down. 'It is just not European, they have gone berserk,' said Joe Holliday, acting president of the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce. In Spain regional parties say they believe in Gibraltar being left alone. The Amigos de Gibraltar, a small group of sympathisers find they are hounded out of Spanish politics, denounced as traitors and have their tyres slashed and their offices ransacked. The 'rock', that tiny peninsula marking the neck of the Mediterranean where it meets the Atlantic is not strictly under siege, not like it was for 18 years under Franco when a referendum showing 96.4 per cent of the people did not want to be handed over to Spain sent the dictator into apoplexy. It survived then through British supplies, its own sophisticated water catchment down the slopes of the rock and two power stations. Indeed there is no comparison whatever between the domestic policies and generally good civil rights of democratic Spain and those of China. Nonetheless Madrid is trying to squeeze Gibraltar into surrender in ways which show just as great a contempt for the process of diplomatic negotiation as anything Chris Patten could accuse Beijing of. There are many simple parallels between Hong Kong and 'Gib' as everyone calls it. You arrive on a short single runway spanning a narrow isthmus between the rock and the Spanish town of La Linea. The jet squeals down with high-rise blocks flashing past the window and judders to a halt metres from the Mediterranean. The heights of the rock could, at a pinch, remind you of the Peak. They look down on a large port, for centuries a strategic naval base and Britain's foothold in the western Mediterranean. There is even an area of reclaimed land jutting out into Algeciras Bay, sporting new office blocks, home to the 32,000 companies in this colony of just 30,000 souls. There works the Financial Services Commissioner John Milner, newly appointed ex-Hongkong Bank man, who still sees the territory as home and applies many of the lessons learned in financial supervision in the territory. Across the harbour is the Governor Sir John Chapple, Commander British Forces Hong Kong 1980-82, resident in Government House but with no great plans for democracy in Gibraltar. It has, unlike Hong Kong, been fully self-governing and democratic since 1964, albeit under a colonial constitution. Gibraltar served as Britain's western Mediterranean outpost for nearly 300 years. Now with the end of the Cold War and of Soviet imperial gestures its only strategic purpose, in the near future, could be as a guard post against the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in North Africa, 12 kilometres away. Gibraltar is a duty free port. Main Street is a poor version of Nathan Road, with mainly Indian shopkeepers selling discounted cameras and electrical goods. Gibraltar even has its ethnic minority problem, a group of Moroccans who protest opposite Government House every day in a wrangle over pensions and social security. There is the Trafalgar cemetery, full of the decaying bones of British seamen killed in battle and mirroring the lonely graves in the Protestant graveyard in Macau. Like Hong Kong the streets echo to colonial memories with names such as Cornwall's Lane, Irish Town and Horse Barrack Court. Bars like the Angry Friar and Mason's Arms are packed with similar expatriates to those found in Mad Dogs or the Bull and Bear. And like Hong Kong, Gibraltar is troubled by its big neighbour. Spain accuses the rock of being a haven for smuggling, for drug dealing, you name it. This is a bit rich considering the crime rate is so low in the colony as to be almost non-existent. Walk down the street in the nearby Spanish town of Algeciras and you are constantly accosted to buy the best Moroccan hashish from across the straits. LIKE some in Hong Kong, Gibraltarians also feels terribly hurt by what they perceive as Britain's soft approach to its harassment by Madrid. To many expatriates working in Gibraltar that is easily explained by a long-standing faith in the Foreign Office approach of quiet diplomacy. They would argue that the typical Gibraltarian prefers what might be called the more usual Mediterranean approach of lots of noise and gusto. But there are more differences than similarities. Gibraltar has, for instance, an assurance from London that nothing will ever be decided about its future without the full permission of its people. That has led, within the past two years, to cries for self-determination, to a feeling of nationhood for this lump of jurassic limestone little more than three kilometres long. It has even brought a national anthem: Gibraltar, Gibraltar, the rock on which I stand, oh may you be forever free, Gibraltar my own land. It was penned by Peter Emberley of Dorset, England. Unlike Hong Kong, Gibraltar has not been a barren rock for many centuries past. Neolithic man lodged in its caves, to the ancient Greeks it was one of the Pillars of Hercules. It swapped sides between Moor and Spaniard until the British admiral, Sir George Rooke, persuaded Spain to give it up with 15,000 rounds and landings by marines and sailors. Chief Minister Joe Bossano, former head of the Transport and General Workers' Union in the docks, sees absolutely no reason why Gibraltar should be handed back to Spain. If countries like Czechoslovakia could split in two in 1992 there is no reason why the world cannot view Spain as having split in 1704. Thirty years ago the United Nations made clear it favoured the rock returning to Spain. Then Spain could present the case that Britain was using Gibraltar to enhance its regional position, which turned the Soviet bloc into the allies of the truly fascist regime in Madrid. If the result of Spain getting its hands on Gibraltar then was a weakened NATO then that was in the Soviet's interests. Mr Bossano believes the British have been trying to make an accommodation with Spain but have been exposed for maintaining contradictory positions. He has a reputation as anti-British among many expatriates and the rhetoric, indeed the world view, of anti-colonialism colours much of his thinking. He says Gibraltar will have to pay 'whatever the price is' if it is serious about its national identity. Pressed, that means the power to embarrass Britain, because the financial stability of the territory, under its current constitution is still Britain's responsibility. If Spain turned the screws on Gibraltar too firmly the British Government would have to pick up the bill to ensure its financial stability. Gibraltar would therefore be regressing as a colony and it would be embarrassing to London. Mr Bossano points out he has no mandate to press for independence. He wants the right to self-determination recognised as a first step. Once that right is fixed he hopes Spain will in effect recognise the strength of feeling leading to a formula to decolonise Gibraltar, leaving its people in control but also removing the Spanish claim. The chief minister is contemptuous of the way the Foreign Office holds talks with Spain, where Madrid complains about the lack of progress in its own case and, he claims, Britain sits quiet not protesting back about Spain's failure to honour agreements or even lift restrictions on flights. Currently you can fly from London to Gibraltar and from there to four Moroccan cities but no further. GB Airways wants the right to bring in tourists from elsewhere in northern Europe and Mr Bossano wants links into Madrid and Barcelona. The talks get nowhere because Spain argues flights from Gibraltar are domestic, Britain says they are international. The antipathy towards the Foreign Office stands out too in Mr Bossano's analysis of Hong Kong, where he can 'understand entirely' the Chinese position over Chek Lap Kok. 'It seems to me the height of bigotry to pull out of a place and then on the eve do all sorts of things which will long outlive your departure and expect the people who are taking over from you to live with the consequences,' he said. He believes the people of Hong Kong should have been consulted on the terms of the handover but can understand again why China is angry about democracy when such measures, he believes, could have been implemented years ago. 'You are changing the place that you are handing over to me after you agreed to hand it over to me' is how he sums up his stance. 'The British knew that they were signing guarantees that they would not be able to enforce and which are totally reliant on the other side,' he said. Any guarantees on Hong Kong's future are just a 'sop' by Whitehall to show the people of Hong Kong that they have not been abandoned. But then he charges that Spain should have no difficulties with Gibraltar, as both are democracies and within the European Union anyway. Opposition leader Peter Caruana is a young lawyer whose stance by contrast is essentially that the relationship with Britain should be modernised but that independence, indeed self-determination as it is espoused by Mr Bossano, is too dangerous given an avaricious Spain next door. Mr Caruana wants Gibraltar to be in on Anglo-Spanish talks and trusts the Foreign Office. 'We firmly believe that Britain's assurances for Gibraltar are firm and reliable in so far as they go,' he said. 'Which is much further than Hong Kong has enjoyed but not as far as we would like.' He believes Gibraltar, in effect, has a veto. 'We are in the privileged position of being able to say, 'no, no, no, no, no', until something acceptable to us is proposed. 'We are anxious to establish the warmest possible relations with Spain. But we are not prepared to countenance any arrangements where Spain gets co-proprietorial or co-sovereignty hands on in relation to Gibraltar.' Mr Caruana says relations with Britain have taken a nose-dive in recent years. This is dangerous for the rock because it could lead to Whitehall establishing its policy not by reference to the merits of its case but by reference to the quality of the relationship between the two governments. It is sound lawyer's logic, but it lacks the emotion local people find so endearing in Mr Bossano's stance. If there were polls in Gibraltar, Mr Caruana would be behind Mr Bossano today just as he was at the last election in 1992. It is the Labour Government of Mr Bossano which has given the impetus to Gibraltar's development as an offshore centre, bringing in the companies which now produce around 20 per cent of the GNP. It is Mr Bossano's government which has led to the development of the sprawling Europort financial area and Mr Bossano's government which has gone out to win investment. In the 1980s Gibraltar did not have a good reputation. Various frauds were linked to its companies: Barlow Clowes, a UK-subscribed investment fund which collapsed being one of the more notable. The government started to get tough in 1989 and Mr Milner was appointed as Financial Services Commissioner this year. He stresses that Gibraltar, as a dependency within the European Union must comply with EU law and hopes the colony will now be in the first division of offshore centres. Tourists pour across the border for the shopping but rush back to their coaches with hardly a glimpse at the rock, its old colonial buildings, its amazing network of siege tunnels or even the only wild apes in Europe.