Hong Kong's last colonial governor Chris Patten has called on the SAR government to communicate with democracy advocates, warning that a failure to do so will only lead to more people identifying with calls for independence.
Speaking at the end of his most recent visit to the city, Patten said it was surprising that three years after the 2014 Occupy movement, the government still hadn't had a true dialogue with the community about democratisation.
“I think the calls for independence were a consequence of not talking to people about greater democratic reform,” he told RTHK’s Richard Pyne.
But he also said he suspected that part of the reason for a “stronger sense of Hong Kong identity” is the way that some mainland officials have behaved, citing the abduction of people from Hong Kong and some mainland officials' criticism of the local judiciary.
In a speech to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club on Tuesday, Patten criticised independence advocates for diluting support for the democratic camp and risking the camp’s hold on the moral high ground.
He agreed that democracy activists, who held the moral high ground for 20 years after the handover, were not able to make any discernable progress towards democracy.
“That’s perfectly true and that’s why things have become more radical – it doesn’t mean that it is wise to become more radical, it means you have to go on making the same arguments because they’re true,” he said.
Asked about the continued respect for him within Hong Kong, Patten said he was “delighted by the fact that … I’m greeted like a sort of ageing rock star”, suggesting that this may be because the public recognised his genuine affection for the city and he articulates what many people are worried about.