Former Hong Kong Governor reminisces historic handover on 'Talking Foreign Affairs'

Adil Cader of ‘Talking Foreign Affairs’ (right) with former Hong Kong Governor, Lord Chris Patten

In a rare and special interview, Adil Cader, the host of Talking Foreign Affairs, welcomes Lord Chris Patten, the last Governor of Hong Kong. Lord Patten presided during the historic handover of Hong Kong from the UK to China.

The host describes him as someone who has “witnessed history”. In this interview, Lord Patten reminisces about his time as the Governor, the series of developments before and during the handover- both in the UK and beyond, and the socio-political landscape within which the historic event unfolded. Furthermore, the former Governor reflects on the future of Hong Kong, the contemporary developments in China, and other critical issues of the time. The two also discuss his latest book in which he recollects his time in office and some interesting stories about other political leaders.

Remembering the historic event, Lord Patten says that there were, primarily, two emotions that occupied him. The first was the longing that would follow after leaving a city that he loved. In his words, “it was one of the happiest periods of my life”. Secondly, he adds, there was also a sense that for many people, “this wasn’t just the end of Britain’s colonial responsibilities, but the end of a whole era for Europe and colonial powers”. “Added to that”, he continues, he had a “certain nervousness about the Chinese Communist Party’s offer of one country two systems”.

Lord Patten further recounts that during his time in office, bilateral trade relations saw a rise in exports. Answering a commonly anticipated question if refusing the handover was ever an option for the British government, the former Governor adds that it wasn’t. “We felt bound by an international treaty and international law. So, it was never an option, but it put us in a difficult position politically and morally”. He also shares a very interesting recollection about finding “the man with the sanest question in Hong Kong in a mental hospital.”

Towards the end of the interview, Lord Chris Patten opens up on some interesting stories about leaders from Britain visiting the Governor’s residence. He goes on to reminisce about leaders from all around the world who extended support to him during his time as Governor, notably Margaret Thatcher and Gareth Evans, the then Foreign Minister of Australia.

Lord Chris Patten was the last Governor of Hong Kong and oversaw the territorial handover to China in 1997. He has previously served as the Chairman of the British Conservative Party and currently holds office as Chancellor of the University of Oxford.

‘Talking Foreign Affairs’ seeks to educate young people on key international issues and analyse key themes of foreign policy and current global affairs. Their offerings include hosting panels, addressing conferences, carrying out research and publishing.