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The Hong Kong Diaries - Chris Patten

The Hong Kong Diaries

By: Chris Patten

Paperback | 23 July 2024 | Edition Number 1

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The diaries of the last British Governor of Hong Kong, published on the 25th anniversary of the handover

In June 1992 Chris Patten went to Hong Kong as the last British governor, to try to prepare it not (as other British colonies over the decades) for independence, but for handing back in 1997 to the Chinese, from whom most of its territory had been leased 99 years previously. Over the next five years he kept this diary, which describes in detail how Hong Kong was run as a British colony and what happened as the handover approached. The book gives unprecedented insights into negotiating with the Chinese, about how the institutions of democracy in Hong Kong were (belatedly) strengthened and how Patten sought to ensure that a strong degree of self-government would continue after 1997. Unexpectedly, his opponents included not only the Chinese themselves, but some British businessmen and civil service mandarins upset by Patten's efforts, for whom political freedom and the rule of law in Hong Kong seemed less important than keeping on the right side of Beijing. The book concludes with an account of what has happened in Hong Kong since the handover, a powerful assessment of recent events and Patten's reflections on how to deal with China - then and now.

About the Author

Chris Patten is Chancellor of Oxford University. When MP for Bath (1979-92) he served as Minister for Overseas Development, Secretary of State for the Environment and Chairman of the Conservative Party. He was Governor of Hong Kong from 1992 until 1997, Chairman for the Independent Commission on Policing after the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and European Commissioner for External Relations from 1999 until 2004. The Observer has described him as 'the best Tory Prime Minister we never had'.
Industry Reviews
Patten's diaries over the next five years describe in detail his day-to-day battles with the Chinese ... a terrific tale, one that will appeal not just to Sinologists but to all historians, since it is effectively a record of the end days of an empire ... At times, the diaries read like a novel ... His chatty style makes the[m] an easy read -- Simon Murray * Daily Telegraph *

wonderfully waspish, fascinating and rude in spades about all the people who deserve nothing less. -- Stephen Vines * Literary Review *

Patten has now published his diaries of five tumultuous years in office, from 1992 to 1997, recording battles against the comrades, the tycoons, the doubters in the cabinet and mandarins everywhere. As you might expect, they are urbane, sardonic and quotable ... his plan was to extend the vote and to democratise local government. The magnates were aghast, the diplomats shuddered and the Chinese, who loathed such notions, ostracised the governor after one round of talks in Beijing ... Yet it was a brave and decent thing to try, an endeavour recorded for posterity in these pages. -- Michael Sheriden * Sunday Times *

the diaries themselves, kept from the time of his appointment in April 1992 to the handover just over five years later, have not been seen before and make for consistently good reading ... Patten also has something powerful to say about Hong Kong today. This takes the form of a passionate polemical essay, written as a postscript to the diaries, about China's increasingly brutal sabotage of the Hong Kong deals. Patten brings terrific energy to his denunciation of Xi Jinping's crackdown on the territory. ... Twenty-five years on, with the global order turning more nationalist and inward, the diaries are a witness that despite his limited achievements, it was Patten who called the outcome more accurately and more honourably than they did. -- Martin Kettle * The Guardian *

As an insider's account, The Hong Kong Diaries is filled with that daily sense of grappling with a multi-headed hydra ... There is an inescapable poignancy to reading this diary in 2022: it is a snapshot of a unique moment at the end of empire, and a now fading picture of an extraordinary society that flourished in its brief moment of freedom. -- Isabel Hilton * Times Literary Supplement *

Lord Patten spent much of his time in Hong Kong struggling against British officials and members of the local elite who believed it was not worth trying to push China to accept more democracy in pre-handover Hong Kong-much less expanding it without China's approval. Some of the most riveting detail in this rich volume relates to these tensions. ... The author's entertaining language brings these diaries to life. * Economist *

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