Ex-governor Patten urges 'genuine dialogue' in Hong Kong

1st October 2014, Comments 0 comments

The last British governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, called on Wednesday for "genuine dialogue" to resolve pro-democracy protests, adding that China was reneging on its promises to allow the city-state to decide its own affairs.

"I think we've got to see dialogue replacing tear gas and pepper spray," he told BBC radio's World At One programme.

He added: "In order to save face for Beijing, and for the Hong Kong government, the right thing to do is to embark on a new period of consultation, make it genuine consultation."

The demonstrators are demanding full universal suffrage after Beijing said it would allow elections for Hong Kong's next leader in 2017 but would vet the candidates.

Patten said the agreements made with Britain ahead of the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to Chinese control made it "absolutely clear that the pace of democratisation is a matter for the Hong Kong government".

Beijing's proposals are "a breach of what the Chinese authorities themselves promised Hong Kong. They said that these matters were within the autonomy of the Hong Kong government and now they are reneging on that", Patten said.

He said the protesters filling the streets of Hong Kong had legitimate grievances.

"The suggestion that all this is being stirred up by outside agitators is a slur on all these people in Hong Kong, many of them very young, who are standing up for what they were promised," he said.

The entire situation had been "very, very badly mishandled", he said.

"The fact that it's been this badly handled, of course, brings into question whether or not Chinese authorities and those who represent them in the government of Hong Kong have actually taken the Sino-British joint declaration as seriously as they should," Patten said.

Patten suggested that the Chinese government's representatives in Hong Kong had not conveyed the strength of feeling about democracy in the city-state.

But he said he did not believe there would be a violent crackdown similar to that in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

"I cannot believe that the Chinese leadership would be so crazy," the former governor said.

"China is concerned about its relationship with the rest of the world, it's concerned about its image in the rest of the world... I cannot believe it would do anything so stupid as sending in the army."

© 2014 AFP

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