[Historical Files] Governor Chris Patten's Inaugural Speech, 9 July 1992

Governor Chris Patten's Inaugural Speech, 9 July 1992

Sir David, Baroness Dunn, ladies and gentlemen,

I am very grateful to the Chief Secretary and to Baroness Dunn for their kind and eloquent words. It was a particular and an attractive pleasure to hear Baroness Dunn twice. [laughter] Sir David and Baroness Dunn are two of Hong Kong's most eminent servants. I greatly look forward to working with them, and to their wise counsel.

I am greatly honoured today to assume the responsibility of the Governorship of Hong Kong - one of the world's greatest cities.

Hong Kong has been made great not by the accidents of geography but by its most formidable assets, the enterprise, the energy, the vitality and industry of its people, living, working and prospering within a framework of sound administration and the rule of law.

You, the people of Hong Kong, have created here at the heart of Asia a wonder of the world, one of the most spectacular examples of the virtues of free economy known to man.

Now the people of Hong Kong face a further task, I am privileged to share it with you for the next five years. Our task for the future is as momentous as your achievements in the past. It is a task that will require all the qualities you have already shown - resilience, determination, drive - only in still greater measure. It is a task which, when we accomplish it successfully - as we are going to do - will provide a shining example to the world of partnership and co-operation between peoples and nations for the good of all.

What we have to do in the closing years of this tumultuous century is to turn from earnest hope to firm reality, that historic and far-sighted concept - "One Country, Two Systems".

When we have achieved that, we will have fulfilled the promise enshrined in the Joint Declaration, a stable and prosperous Hong Kong whose future - founded in that Declaration - is secure; a Hong Kong that cherishes and maintains its present lifestyle; a capitalist heart beating the centre of Asia, pumping prosperity ever more widely.

That achievement will be good for the people of today's Hong Kong; good for the people of Hong Kong of tomorrow; good for China; good for Britain; good for the close relationship between our two ancient civilizations; and it will - as the new century unfolds - be good for the world.

As you know, as Sir David mentioned in his own remarks, I don't come today as a stranger to the territory. I have visited Hong Kong both as a backbench Member of Parliament and as a Minister. But I have never lived here, and nor has my family - my wife, Lavender, my daughters Laura, Alice and Kate (who is not here today but reported to be somewhere between Uruguay and Paraguay). They will join me in expressing our enthusiasm at the prospect of making our home in Hong Kong and getting to know the people who live here.

I am, of course, very much aware of the considerable achievement of my predecessor. Lord Wilson has been a friend for many years. He was an excellent Governor of Hong Kong, marvellously supported by Lady Wilson. I know that they are held in high regard and much affection. Throughout his distinguished career as diplomat and then Governor, Lord Wilson has done as much as any man to strengthen the bonds between Britain and China to the benefit of Hong Kong; to try to ensure that our nations understand one another better; and above all to serve you, the people of this territory. He has been an exemplary career of public service.

For my own part, I pledged myself to devote all my energy to representing the interest of the people of Hong Kong as strongly and as wisely as I can.

I will stand up for Hong Kong as you would wish me to do, courteously and firmly.

I said a moment ago that we must turn "One Country, Two Systems" from aspiration to reality. But let us begin with this question. What are the hallmarks of Hong Kong's system?

The bedrock, the bedrock of your way of life is the rule of law that guarantees fair and equitable treatment for everyone. It governs all your dealings, personal and financial. You have an independent Judiciary in which every individual can have confidence. Because no one is above the law. No politician, no business leader, no citizen, no Governor. Because no one is above the law, the law serves everyone.

People of Hong Kong enjoy the freedom to go about your business without constant interference from the Government. You enjoy freedom of worship and freedom of speech.

You have as well a Government in which there is democratic participation by the people of Hong Kong at every level, a Government supported by a fine public service.

Flourishing in this environment, Hong Kong is the best example in the post-war world of an open market economy. It is open in two senses: open to all the many talents of those who work in it and open to the world with which it trades with such spectacular success.

They are the distinctive qualities of our system. The Joint Declaration guarantees that they will all be preserved for the future. Looking to that future, I would like to make five brief points this afternoon.

First, we can best secure our future tomorrow by our success today. That is true of our economy and it is true of our Government. The strongest safeguard for our governing institutions will be the effectiveness, vigour and the good sense with which they operate. All of us who participate in the running of Hong Kong have serious work to do. I look forward to co-operating with those who share my aim - to do everything we can to improve and strengthen the Government of Hong Kong in the unique circumstances in which history has placed us. Those circumstances require a spirit of mature co-operation in the business of Government. 

To govern - as [inaudible] said* - is to choose and choice is invariably difficult. Good political leadership involves facing up to hard decisions, taking them, setting out clearly what has to be done when all the talking is over, and winning consent for the course that has to be pursued.

That is why I wish, while preserving the authority and the dignity of my office, to make my Governorship as open and assessable as possible. But the ultimate responsibility of leadership rests with me, in what is and in what will remain an executive-led Government.

Secondly, our personal and collective ambitions and prospects are inevitably linked to the success of the economy in which we work. Hong Kong knows better than anywhere that it cannot rest on laurels won in the past. We have to strive continuously to maintain and improve our competitiveness for tomorrow's world, certain of only one thing - that our competitors will certainly do the same. We cannot stand still. We must continue to build for the future. That is why the new airport and all the infrastructure projects associated with it are so important. That is why the Prime Ministers of both Britain and China have expressed their personal commitment to this exciting work. It is a great undertaking worthy of the great city and territory that it will serve.

When the airport and the new airport, and the bridges and the railways, and the land reclamation and the roads, when they are all completed, we know that the whole project will act as a dynamo for further wealth creation, not just in Hong Kong but in Guangdong and more widely in Southern China whose flourishing economic links with the territory are to the benefit of us all. The airport will confirm our place at the crossroads of the Asian economy.

To retain our economic strength, we also have to attend to more parochial but important concerns. We have, for example, to continue to battle against inflation, hard-fought though that battle is bound to be. When the public express anxiety about the rate of inflation, they are wholly right to do so. Inflation is a cunning enemy, an enemy that we ignore at our peril.

Thirdly, it is essential that we remain a low tax economy in which public spending is kept under prudent control. But it is also right that we should be free to use some of the wealth we generate as a community to help those of our fellow citizens who fall by the wayside. And in addition to make our society even more civilized, I know how much this community cares about the education of our children, about the care of the elderly, about housing, about the disabled, and about the environment in which we live. I intend that the Government should attach to these issues the priority they undoubtedly deserve. I look forward to saying more about them in my speech to the Legislative Council in October.

Fourthly, I know as well how much concern ha been expressed in the community about law and order. Hong Kong, it is true, is a safer city than most. Yet that is little comfort to the families and businesses who have been the victims of violent crime. The Government will be relentless in the fight against crime. We should be especially tough against violent crime. The Royal Hong Kong Police Force do a magnificent job. They can count on my staunch support as they go about their sometimes dangerous work. Co-operating closely with the Chinese authorities, we shall work round the clock to beat crime in this city.

My fifth task is perhaps the most vital and challenging of all.

I have heard it said that the relationship between Britain and China, and therefore the position of Hong Kong is still bedevilled by misunderstandings and by a lack of trust.

I will do all I can to remove misunderstandings, and to build up trust. But I make this point with some emphasis, trust is a two-way street. Good co-operation with China is my sincere aim and my profound wish. It is vital for the next five years, vital for the future of Hong Kong.

Let me finally make this clear.

As Hong Kong's Governor I have no secret agenda. You are with me already. My only agenda is the one I have laid before you today. It is clear. It is public. And so it will remain. If you want to know what I believe, if you want to know what I think, if you want to know what I intend to do, read what I say and listen to what I say.

I have no doubt that - God willing (which I say with an emphasis in front of the bishop and the cardinal) - through our own hard work, our own calm judgment, and sturdy determination, we shall carry through this historic task to a conclusion that will rank above all others among this territory's many achievements.

In the next five years and for 50 years and more beyond, the eyes of the world will be on Hong Kong. I am sure that we shall be worthy of our destiny, a symbol of confidence and co-operation for the rest of humanity.

*: The quote is said to be from Pierre Mendès-France, not "Choisseur"


























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