If we really want to make world news, let’s ban Chris Patten

Had Benedict Rogers been allowed in, he would have visited the jailed Occupy youngsters, criticised the authorities and not attracted global media attention

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 October, 2017, 12:48am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 October, 2017, 12:48am

Beijing is often accused of illegitimately interfering in Hong Kong affairs. Yet, instances where its influence was exercised within its rights were often the most counterproductive.

One example was in August 2014 with the white paper on electoral reform, which pretty much doomed efforts by the city governmentto negotiate a compromise with the opposition.

A white paper is not a state order, but simply a statement of Beijing’s official position on a particular issue. Some of the latest papers were on the national space programme, traditional Chinese medicine, poverty reduction, and gender and ethnic equality.

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Yet, that 2014 paper gave the opposition sufficient excuse to refuse any compromise and reject the reform package.

Imagine if the package had been passed. Every eligible local voter could have cast a ballot in the last chief executive election and John Tsang Chun-wah, the opposition’s preferred candidate, may have been the leader now.

The latest trouble concerns the refusal to let a British human rights activist into Hong Kong, a decision presumably made by the mainland authorities. Since it fell under foreign affairs, such an order would be in accord with the Basic Law.

But if it had been left to the discretion of the Immigration Department and the Security Bureau, Benedict Rogers, a Tory nobody, would probably have been let in. He would have visited a few Occupy youngsters jailed for a few months but miraculously turned into “prisoners of conscience” and Nobel Peace Prize material by some overseas publications and politicians.

At the end of his visit, he would have issued a statement criticising Hong Kong and mainland authorities on this and that, to which no one would have paid any attention except for a few diehard yellow ribbon news sites.

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Now, thanks to his being denied entry, even the BBC reported it as big news and Boris Johnson, Britain’s theatrical foreign secretary, feigned outrage. Rogers could not have dreamed of a better outcome.

If we have been letting in the last governor Chris Patten for the past 20 years, someone like Rogers didn’t even seem like an issue.

Despite denials, Patten has been badmouthing our judiciary ever since those young protesters were jailed. If we are going to ban anyone from entering and make world news anyway, might as well pick a worthy big cheese like Patten.