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Former Thatcher Aide Lord Powell Says UK Did Not Intend To Give Hong Kong Full Democracy

By | Oct 07, 2014 03:35 AM EDT
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Hong Kong pro-democracy movement

Pro-democracies rallies in Hong Kong have started to wane as formal talks between the Hong Kong leadership and the student-protesters will soon begin.(Photo : Reuters)

Lord Charles Powell, a former aide to late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, on Sunday said Hong Kong enjoys autonomy far greater than what was expected when the UK negotiated the special administrative region's return to Chinese rule in 1997.

Powell, who worked as Thatcher's private secretary when Britain gave Hong Kong back to China, said Britain "rented" Hong Kong for a while. The British did not intend to introduce democracy in Hong Kong, he said.

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The reason being is that Britain knew it was eventually going to return the Chinese city to Beijing; introducing full democracy and then taking it back would prove detrimental, Powell told BBC Radio 4.

The bottom line is, Hong Kong is still a Chinese territory, Powell said. But it has freedoms, including political ones, not exercised elsewhere in China, Xinhua reported.

Lord Powell, who now sits as the director of Hong Kong Land, a property developer, and UK's influential advisory group on investment and trade, the Asia Task Force, said it is naïve to expect for the Chinese central government to yield to Hong Kong protesters' demands. He said he did not believe the demonstrations would force Beijing to change its stance.

He said the Chinese restrictions on elections have always been clear, adding that the electoral reforms activists demanded are "unrealistic."

Instead, Powell called on Hong Kong's youth to make the most of its "very wide degree of freedom and autonomy," Xinhua quoted him as saying.

Powell's remarks came after a American group advising the U.S. Congress on China relations expressed support for the Hong Kong protestors.

On Sunday, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission urged Chinese and Hong Kong authorities to adopt electoral reforms supporting universal suffrage.

But China has its own take on the matter.

An influential Chinese Communist Party journal said in its latest edition distributed over the weekend that "blind copying" of Western-style democracy is disastrous. It is not a universal value and is not suited for all countries, Reuters reported.

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