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Chris Patten, Hong Kong’s last Governor, back for a visit

Chris Patten, Hong Kong’s last Governor, back for a visit

Chris Patten, Hong Kong’s last Governor, returned to the territory for the first time in 3 years to a receptive audience of well wishers.  Patten, or Fat Pang as he is also affectionately known, remains popular among the people of Hong Kong for his championing of democratic reforms in the run up to the handover of sovereignty from Great Britain to China in 1997.
Last week I was sitting with some Hong Kong Chinese peers and the subject of next years Chief Executive election came up.  (The Chief Executive is the post created to replace the Governor after the handover)  My friends were bemoaning the choice of the the two front runner candidates that they felt would be ineffective in leading Hong Kong into the 21st Century.  There seemed to be a consensus that either candidate would be too scared of upsetting Beijing to be very effectual. 

It was at this point I piped in and suggested, “Sounds like Hong Kong needs a Chinese Chris Patten as a candidate.” 

Surprisingly (or perhaps not surprisingly) there seemed to be universal agreement on the subject.
“He was good for Hong Kong” responded one
“He didn’t care what Britain or China thought…He put Hong Kong people first.” responded another.
“The Hong Kong people still think very highly of him.” added a third.

Its easy to see why, even after 14 years, Fat Pang still holds a certain soft spot in the locals hearts, particularly with the older generation of Hong Kongers.  Unlike previous Governors, and later Chief Executives, Chris Patten was known for frequently strolling along Hong Kong streets in an attempt to meet everyday Hong Kong people.  In fact, many a Hong Kong restaurant would have a picture on the wall of the Governor stopping by their establishment and posing with the owner.

I remember once in the late 1990’s after the Handover the owner of a restaurant Tammy and I frequented in Wan Chai told us a story.  For a number of years he had a picture of himself with Chris Patten on the wall when Patten had dropped by out of the blue one day to meet him in his back kitchen.  Some local government officials who were part of the new post-British administration came in for lunch one day and called him over to their table. He said to me, “Steve,  they pointed at the picture of Chris Patten and me shaking hands and asked whether it wasn’t about time I took that picture down.”  

He told them, “No, the picture stays but any time Tung Che-Hwa (the then Chief Executive) wants to come around and shake my hand, I’ll be happy to put his picture up as well”.

The officials never came back…

Patten was well known for his love of local egg tarts and the South China Morning Post newspaper reported that his plane had landed at 4:00 PM and the former Governor was able to sample his first local egg tart at “quarter past five”.
Although Patten’s visit to Hong Kong is not political in nature he did have three pieces of advice for the two men seeking to run for his old job;

“Understanding the profound honor of serving  the people of Hong Kong.  Understanding the reasons for the city’s success are prerequisites for success.  Comprehending the full meaning of ‘one country, two systems’ is important too.”

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