- Title: Hong Kong's last colonial governor says independence call a "terrible mistake"
- Date: 25th November 2016
- Summary: HONG KONG, CHINA (FILE) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF HONG KONG CITY
- Embargoed: 10th December 2016 09:40
- Keywords: Hong Kong China Britain colonial governor independence
- Location: HONG KONG, CHINA
- City: HONG KONG, CHINA
- Country: China
- Topics: Diplomacy/Foreign Policy,Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA00159XZ1OL
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: An independence campaign in Hong Kong is a terrible mistake that undermines the city's push for democracy and serves merely to provoke Beijing, Chris Patten, the last colonial governor of the former British colony, told Reuters in an interview on Friday (November 25).
Speaking after a speech to a packed Foreign Correspondents' Club, Patten said that while democratic development in Hong Kong had been disappointingly slow, independence was not the answer.
"There is no stronger supporter of democracy in Hong Kong than me, but to confuse that campaign with a campaign for independence is a terrible mistake. It reduces support for democracy, it undermines the moral high ground which I think was achieved by students in 2014," said Patten, who governed from 1992 to 1997 and was in tears at the handover ceremony adding that it also provoked not just the Chinese Communist Party but also mainland Chinese people.
He also worried of the example it set to young people in Hong Kong.
"They do need to have somebody giving them a vision and that vision should include democracy. But it's a snare and a delusion to say that it's about independence. It's not. It's about something rather different, which is the special nature of Hong Kong citizenship. It's about the way in which Hong Kong, while a part of China has more real freedom than a huge number of cities around Asia," he said.
Communist Party leaders in Beijing fear calls for democracy spreading to other cities. Britain itself made no mention of democracy for Hong Kong until the dying days of more than 150 years of colonial rule.
The issue of independence in Hong Kong grabbed international attention this month when Beijing intervened to effectively bar two pro-independence politicians from being sworn into office.
The rare move came after Yau Wai-ching, 25, and Baggio Leung, 30, pledged allegiance to the "Hong Kong nation" and displayed a banner declaring "Hong Kong is not China" during a swearing-in ceremony for the Legislative Council in October.
Both are currently appealing the decision at the High Court which said on Friday (November 18) that it would hand down its decision next week.
"I respect Chris Patten's point of view. But either it is possible or not, it is workable or not, I mean Hong Kong independence or self-determination, this is at least, a number of Hong Kong people's wishes. And also we as the ones being elected, we must respect this," said Leung outside the High Court on Friday after both sides gave their submissions.
Political reform has been a constant source of friction between Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement and the mainland since the city was returned to Chinese rule.
"If we still want true democracy, we need to deal with the relationship between Beijing and the Hong Kong government. This is a must. And self-determination or Hong Kong independence is the start of it. If we don't deal with this we'll never have our true democracy," said Leung.
China took back control of the former British colony in 1997 through a "one country, two systems" formula that allows wide-ranging freedoms, a separate legal system and which specifies universal suffrage as an eventual goal.
Beijing's refusal to grant full democracy saw tens of thousands of students take to the streets in late 2014, protests that presented the central government with one of its greatest challenges in decades. Patten supported the students' demands.
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