Former UK envoy Sir Richard Evans, who was key in HK's handover, dies

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 August, 2012, 5:41am

Sir Richard Mark Evans, Britain's ambassador to China in 1984 who contributed to the negotiations that led to Hong Kong's handover to China, died on Friday at the age of 84.

Born on April 15, 1928, Evans was educated at Repton and Magdalen College, Oxford. He served in the embassy in Beijing twice, and went to Stockholm and Paris during his Foreign Office service, returning to head the embassy in January 1984.

Evans helped with the negotiations of the Joint Declaration - drafted by his predecessor, Sir Percy Cradock - as the statement on Hong Kong's future was known. And it was Evans who helped shape the city as "an island of capitalism" within a communist regime after 1997.

He described the blueprint of its future as "the practical embodiment of the imaginative concept of one country, two systems".

Veteran democrat Martin Lee Chu-ming, who had just finished his term as chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association at that time, recalled attending a dinner with the then governor Sir Edward Youde and Evans, shortly before Evans went to Beijing.

"Before the dinner, we were in the sitting room. I gave him a small piece of paper, saying 'Howe Youde Luce Hong Kong, but keep our judiciary independent'," [How you lose Hong Kong but keep our judiciary independent] Lee said.

He was making a pun with the names of the then foreign secretary Geoffrey Howe, Youde and the then junior foreign minister Richard Luce, who was responsible for Hong Kong matters.

"He read it and smiled, and put it in his pocket," Lee recalled.

Evans once said: "In British history books the Opium War [after which Hong Kong was ceded to Britain] is a footnote. In Chinese history it is a central, and extremely humiliating event."

He finished his career in 1986 in Beijing where he was present for Queen Elizabeth's state visit.

In retirement Evans became a scholar at the University of Oxford while he researched and wrote a biography of Deng Xiaoping .