Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Chris Patten on Hong Kong

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 3rd February, 2020

Alistair Carmichael and Chris PattenThis evening I was at Central Hall Westminster to hear Chris Patten deliver the inaugural Paddy Ashdown memorial lecture on Hong Kong, under the auspices of the human rights NGO Hong Kong Watch. As the last Governor of the colony, and a distinctly liberal Tory, Lord Patten could hardly have been bettered as a speaker. He has continued to follow events in Hong Kong closely and gave a very cogent appraisal of the current situation there, where a certain political impasse has led to a minority of protesters adopting violent techniques, which he does not endorse, though he understands why some firebrands have lost patience. He was highly critical of the Hong Kong Chief Executive. Carrie Lam, but even more so of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who he said rightly does not share the sort of values that have underpinned the rules-based order that has dominated much of the international scene since the Second World War. It is important to note that dissent within the People’s Republic has been stomped on, as well as in Hong Kong, and oppression of the Uyghurs and their culture in Xinjiang is serious.

Chris Patten clearly wasn’t very happy about Huawei getting an entrée into the UK’s 5G development, either. It would have been interesting to know what the late Paddy Ashdown would have thought of that. He was passionately interested in defending the rights of Hong Kong British Nationals Overseas (BNOs), believing Britain had a duty to welcome them as immigrants if necessary. He learned Mandarin Chinese as part of his military training and we used to chat in it sometimes when we wanted to make some indiscreet remark in a crowded room. As Alistair Carmichael MP — Foreign Affairs spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons and Master of Ceremonies for this evening’s lecture — recalled, Paddy was not always the easiest person to work with, not just because of his great energy but also because when he thought he was right he ploughed on in the direction he had chosen regardless. That was my experience of Paddy as Party Leader, too, but I was very fond of him and I think he would be proud to know that this new memorial lecture series has been established in his honour on a subject dear to his heart.

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