Friday, September 23, 2005

Patten Recognition

This week's brief visit to Hong Kong included a climb to the Peak for dinner. In addition to the usual four stories of tourist outlets a Dymocks has just opened. Arriving early and browsing, what caught my attention in this 1998 memoir by Hong Kong's last British governor was the prose style: elegant, erudite and witty. And of course his story has the immediacy of history told by a player rather than a spectator.

Reading on through, one discovers that it is not so much a memoir as a defence of the traditional liberal values: market forces, the rule of law and basic freedoms of expression and movement, using Hong Kong vs Beijing as a case study. Patten perhaps understandably has a forthright view on Asian politics, and it is not necessary to agree with everything he says in order to admire and enjoy the exemplary way in which he says it.

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