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The Last Governor

Chris Patten - Governor of Hong Kong

Chris Patten was appointed the last Governor of Hong Kong following the loss of his Bath parliamentary seat in the 1992 election. He has been dubbed the 'Last Imperialist' because of his role in overseeing Britain's withdrawal from the last outpost of the British Empire.


Christopher Francis Patten was born on May 12 1944. His family lived in Greenford, and Chris Patten went to primary school there and then won a scholarship to the Catholic St Benedict's School in Ealing, west London. He read history at Balliol College, Oxford.

Mr Patten's upbringing was not political. His father dropped out of university to become a jazz drummer and then a music publisher. Chris Patten has said his mother "would have regarded talking about politics or religion as slightly indecent" and he took no part in politics at university.

Following his graduation from Oxford in 1966, Chris Patten went to work in the Conservative Research Department. He was appointed its head in 1974 at the age of thirty, and was the youngest man to hold the job. Mr Patten helped draft much of the 1979 Conservative Election Manifesto.

Parliamentary Career

In 1979, Chris Patten became the MP for Bath, the start of a varied parliamentary career. His first step on the ministerial ladder came when he was appointed parliamentary under secretary for Northern Ireland in 1983. In 1985, Mr Patten became Minister of State at the Education Department, and in 1986 was appointed Minister in charge of the Overseas Development Agency. He gained a seat in the Cabinet in 1989 when he was appointed Secretary of State for the Environment - charged with overseeing the controversial 'Poll Tax'.

Chris Patten is an original 'One Nation' Conservative. He is not a Thatcherite, and in 1979 actually wrote to Margaret Thatcher to tell her what was wrong with her monetarist views. In 1991, he was one of the three ministers who told Mrs Thatcher that she should resign.

In 1990, Patten was appointed Chairman of the Conservative Party, and played a key role in the Conservative victory in the 1992 General Election. He lost his own Commons seat, however, following a bitter campaign in Bath, in which he and his family received both verbal and physical abuse.

Governor of Hong Kong

Chris Patten is a close friend of the former Prime Minister John Major and following the loss of his parliamentary seat he was seen as the ideal candidate to oversee the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997. Mr Patten took up his post as the 28th and last Governor of Hong Kong on July 9 1992.

The Chinese authorities took an immediate dislike to Governor Patten when in October 1992 he announced proposals to make the legislative system in Hong Kong more democratic. The Chinese Government was outraged that it had not been consulted before the democratic reforms were announced and declared that it would overturn the reforms when Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule.

Governor Patten received many personal insults from Chinese officials in their efforts to make him back down. He has been called a "liar", a "snake", a "prostitute", and a "tango dancer". A Chinese cartoon strip has labelled him "Fei (fat) Pang".

The democratic reforms were finally approved by the Hong Kong Legislative Council on June 30 1994, and elections to the colony's Legislative Council were held in September 1995. Governor Patten had succeeded in introducing a more democratic society to Hong Kong, although at the cost of his relationship with the Chinese leaders, whom he has not met since the announcement of the reforms in October 1992.

Governor Patten appears to be popular with the Hong Kong people. In a poll released on 13 March 1997 by the Hong Kong Baptist University, it was revealed that 62% of the 546 people questioned thought Chris Patten was doing a good job, compared to 53% for Chief Executive designate Tung Chee-Hwa.

The Future

There has been much speculation about the future for Chris Patten now that he has ceased to become Governor of Hong Kong. He has dismissed rumours that he will come back to British politics through a by-election in a safe seat. In March this year he said "There are no seats being kept warm." Mr Patten has said that he intends to take a long holiday, write a book about what the West can learn from Hong Kong, and find a new London home.

Diana, Princess of Wales, 1961-1997

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