Among all western politicians, former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten is probably the only one who can speak freely for Hong Kong without being encumbered by political and commercial influence from Beijing.
Speaking in the British parliament on Monday, Lord Patten gave a stirring endorsement of the ongoing Occupy protests. Hong Kong’s democracy activists should be happy for having such an eminent figure to speak on their behalf. As the headline of Apple Daily’s Thursday editorial said, “Chris Patten is a real friend of the Hong Kong people.”
However, Patten’s speech also reflected the truth that Hong Kong can no longer rely on western countries, the so-called “foreign powers” or “external forces” mentioned every so often by the pro-Beijing camp, to take up its side when the city comes into conflict with the central government on political and economic issues.
When all that western countries could say is for everybody “to stay calm and avoid violence”, Hong Kong people would have to uphold by themselves the “one country, two systems” principle, in which their confidence is crumbling.
According to the Apple Daily editorial, “no other politician or elite in China, the United Kingdom or Hong Kong can compare with him as he has long been concerned about the city, he gives constant support for the citizens’ pursuit of democracy and freedom and dares to speak up for Hongkongers”.
Patten demonstrates his support for the Umbrella Movement not only by putting up a yellow umbrella in public but also by taking practical actions, the editorial said, citing his speech before a panel of British lawmakers conducting an inquiry into Hong Kong’s progress toward democracy.
“When China asserts that what is happening in Hong Kong is nothing to do with us, we should make it absolutely clear publicly and privately that that is not the case,” Patten told the parliament.
“There has always been quite a strong group in government and the business community which believes that you can only do business with China if you carefully avoid in all circumstances treading on China’s toes or saying anything the Chinese disagree with.”
Patten harshly criticized the British government for encouraging China to behave badly on Hong Kong matters, adding that the comments by Chinese officials were to “spit in the face” of the 1984 Joint Declaration on the conditions under which Hong Kong would be handed over.
“It is the [Sino-British] Joint Declaration, not the Chinese declaration,” he said.
It is not difficult to understand why Patten is so fearless when he speaks for Hong Kong as he is no longer in the ruling position.
This is exactly the same with The Emperor’s New Clothes. No one around the king dares to tell the truth, except the child with a true heart.
Hong Kong democracy supporters need not feel depressed when everyone seems to be kowtowing to China as the new “king”. Everyone knows that the real king is cash, which will be running out someday.
They need not be upset if only out-of-office or retired politicians dare to speak the truth. Those who are in power have other things to worry about. “Moral courage” is not always their first priority.
So why feel sad? At least there is one Chris Patten who is showing moral courage.
“What is happening in Hong Kong is that there is an extraordinary lack of leadership,” he said. Seventeen years after leaving as governor, Patten still shows a firm grasp of the situation in the territory. And he has the courage to articulate it.
He urged the Hong Kong government “to get into serious negotiation with the protesters”. Of all the many views voiced by experts from both sides of the political divide, that is probably the best, if most practical, suggestion ever been given concerning the current political standoff.
Only through earnest dialogue can the deadlock over the Umbrella Movement, which has sustained for nearly six weeks, be resolved.
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