Fri, Jul 02, 2004 - Page 4 News List

China must trust the people of Hong Kong: ex-governor-general

AFP , JAKARTA

Greater political freedom in Hong Kong will help pave the way for a peaceful political transition in China, the EU's commissioner for external relations, Chris Patten, said yesterday.

Patten, the final British governor-general of Hong Kong, was speaking at a public lecture in Jakarta as hundreds of thousands of protesters marched through the streets of Hong Kong.

"Hong Kong people, seven years on from the handover, still wish for what Hong Kong people wanted in 1997, that is, a bigger share in determining their own lives," Patten said.

Some in Beijing see what is happening in Hong Kong as a "nasty test case" and think that if they give too much it will lead to instability both in Hong Kong and in China, Patten said.

"My own view is that if they trusted people in Hong Kong, the results would be to make Hong Kong more, rather than less, successful," he said.

gradual changes

Such trust, he added, would also "help to see their way to the sort of gradual political changes ... which will sooner or later have to happen in China."

Unless that change is managed by China's political leadership, "then change will come from the bottom up, rather than the top down and that is a much less certain and less stable process," he added.

Despite the rocky relationship he had with the communist authorities during his tenure, Patten called himself a friend and admirer of China.

"But I just wish that China showed in dealing with Hong Kong the same guile and the same wisdom it showed in many of the economic decisions that it's taken," he said.

Patten was demonized by Bei-jing for introducing democratic institutions in Hong Kong, including legislative elections, before the territory reverted to Beijing's control.

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