A spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry office in Hong Kong has condemned the city’s last colonial governor Chris Patten, saying he will be “condemned to everlasting infamy,” whilst accusing him of meddling in local affairs.

Lord Patten appeared in a Foreign Correspondents’ Club webinar titled “What’s in Store for Hong Kong’s Future?” as a guest speaker on Wednesday. He shared his view on China and Hong Kong’s handling of Covid-19 pandemic situation, the recent arrests of 15 prominent pro-democracy figures on unlawful assembly charges, Beijing’s adherence to the “One Country, Two Systems,” press freedom and the recent police watchdog report.

Chris Patte
Chris Patten. File photo: Handout.

He said he thought that, since Xi Jinping was allowed to be Chinese leader for life, there had been a significant change in Beijing’s treatment of Hong Kong’s autonomy and the rule of the law: “The promises of giving Hong Kong greater accountability, more opportunities for developing democratic institutions – a promise which was explicitly made before 1997 and afterwards both by Liu Ping, the director then of the Hong Kong Macau affairs office, and by the Foreign Ministry in Beijing – those promises were rowed back on.”

“Xi Jinping and his court have regarded Hong Kong and Hong Kong’s freedoms as an existential problem for them because Hong Kong represents so much of what they dislike.”

Patten also touched on Beijing’s alleged encroachment after it defined the role of its two offices in the city: “I don’t think one should spend too much time questioning whether what was done by the joint liaison office and the Hong Kong Macau affairs office was in breach of the Joint Declaration,” he said. “Of course it was. It’s a breach of the promises to Hong Kong people about local autonomy.”

July 21 anti-extradition government protest China Liaison Office
Photo: inmedia.net.

The Foreign Ministry Commissioner’s Office in Hong Kong released a statement on the same day of the webinar to condemn the ex-governor. “[He] heaped accusations onto the HKSAR Government’s governance, distorted “One Country, Two Systems” and the Basic Law, smeared the Central Government’s Hong Kong policy, and tarnished China’s international image,” it read. The spokesperson called Lord Patten “pathetic,” adding that he was “cling[ing] to colonialist mentality,” and will “end up as a historical notoriety.”

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Lord Patten also mentioned in the webinar that, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the press in Hong Kong has given the people information they needed to respond quickly to the situation.

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“It’s very very important to understand the importance of a free press and a free media to sustainable economic prosperity and sustainable stability,” he said, as he advised everyone to subscribe to independent media outlet and avail themselves to crowdfunding from time to time.

“It matters to everyone of us that the press tell it as it is, not as the government wants us to hear.”

Rachel Wong previously worked as a documentary producer and academic researcher. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and European Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She has contributed to A City Made by People and The Funambulist, and has an interest in cultural journalism and gender issues.