16 November 2018
Chris Patten said those advocating independence should instead focus on how to achieve democracy. Photo: HKEJ
Chris Patten said those advocating independence should instead focus on how to achieve democracy. Photo: HKEJ

Chris Patten: Hong Kong can have universal suffrage by 2047

Universal suffrage, or the right of Hong Kong people to choose their leader directly, is definitely realizable by 2047 as Beijing promised in the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984, says former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten.

In an exclusive interview with the Hong Kong Economic Journal during his visit to the city last week, Patten also said it is Britain’s political and moral responsibility to supervise the process until then.

The last colonial leader of Hong Kong said the British government should take the initiative to stand up against any Beijing action that violates the declaration, including speaking out for Hongkongers at the United Nations and in the international community.

He admitted, however, that the number of channels available for it to do so is very few.

Criticizing Beijing’s abduction of five Hong Kong booksellers last year was the right thing to do for the British government, Patten said.

His views run counter to that of Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, who told the Legislative Council in 2014 that Britain has no such right of supervision because the promise to preserve Hong Kong’s capitalist system and way of life for a period of 50 years until 2047 under the “one country, two systems” principle was unilaterally made by Beijing.

Patten said one must remember that the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which Beijing and Hong Kong officials have been trying to avoid talking about, was not a “one-sided” commitment but a “joint one, and therefore Beijing’s promise made in it makes British supervision justified”.

He also said the promulgation of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, does not mean it replaces the declaration because the former was made for the purpose of fulfilling the latter.

He called Beijing’s abidance by the declaration since Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule in 1997 “roughly acceptable” and the “one country, two systems” principle “generally successful”.

As for Beijing’s mounting distrust toward Hong Kong, Patten said one of the main reasons for that is some people are trying to push for the city’s independence and that has not helped ease concerns in any way.

He suggested that those advocating independence should instead focus on how to achieve democracy because that would be more advantageous to Hong Kong people.

The 2014 Occupy Movement made the world see that Hongkongers have the moral high ground and the final victory always belongs to those with the most well-founded moral ground, Patten said, adding that he is confident Hong Kong will be a better city 50 years from now.

Meanwhile, former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing said someone badmouthed him to Beijing for writing the preface for Patten’s new book.

Calling such a move against Tsang “ridiculously crude”, Patten remarked: “I think Leninist party officials don’t change their spots”.

Asked by media about what he thought of Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah’s possible candidacy in the 2017 chief executive election, Patten only said Tsang was a good personal assistant to him when he was the leader of Hong Kong.

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