Bearing a rather small olive branch, Chris Patten, the Governor of Hong Kong, yesterday entered the lions' den in another attempt to persuade the colony's business leaders that they needed to speak up for the preservation of the territory's freedoms because, if they did not, "who do you think will?".
The former chairman of the Conservative Party finds himself condemned by Hong Kong businessmen as a "closet socialist" bent on profligate social spending, and as a dangerous radical advocating reckless democratic reform.
For the better part of the past year Mr Patten has been trying to pacify business leaders whom he indirectly accused of hypocrisy for refusing to assist in Hong Kong's democratic development while arranging bolt-holes for themselves in democratic societies in the event that next year's transition to Chinese rule goes wrong. In yesterday's speech to the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, Mr Patten flattered the business leaders by suggesting that in the past they had used their influence with the incoming Chinese government to assist in negotiations which helped to preserve the colony's way of life. However, he reminded them that more than half the companies listed on the local stock exchange had established domiciles offshore. …