Winning the Big Vote: April 1994–April 1995

Monday 11 April

We got back from the UK to a familiar agenda. One new issue is that a journalist from Ming Pao, Xi Jang, has been arrested in Beijing for allegedly stealing state secrets; what he has actually done is to produce some excellent and accurate reporting on the management of the Chinese economy. There is bound to be a chilling effect among journalists in Hong Kong. He will undoubtedly be locked up after the usual Chinese trial with a preordained verdict. The pity of it is that there isn’t much we can do about it apart from harrumph.

Other than this, we are going to have to focus on possible legislation on human rights, the actual legislation we are bringing forward on Legco elections, and the consequences of Lu Ping visiting Hong Kong, with his quisling groupies doing as much as possible to undermine the present government and the properly elected Legco.

Robin McLaren is with us for a short visit, and before we had discussions about human rights he told us that there is no real sign so far of discrimination against British trade, though he is given rather a frosty time by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Amnesty are going to publish a report during the week advocating the establishment of a human rights commission, but nobody seems very clear about what exactly such a commission would actually do. The things that have to be addressed – awareness of human rights, affordability of pursuing human rights cases and accessibility – could all be done without a commission. The main argument against setting one up is that it could endanger the Bill of Rights itself. It isn’t going to be easy to hold the line on this even though we are certainly intending to do more on freedom of speech and on human rights protections.

Monday 18 April

I met a brave Chinese writer, Professor Wu, who was locked up for years by the communists. He is pretty pessimistic about China and told me that in his view it will take many years for it to change. He also reckons that Hong Kong will have a tough time after 1997, though whether it will be wrecked will depend on how much people are prepared to fight for it. But what, I asked, will the communists do if people do fight for it? We both have an uneasy feeling that we know the answer.

Wednesday 20 April

We have been offering Lu Ping a meeting when he comes to Hong Kong, but no replies are forthcoming. When I saw the Portuguese Prime Minister, Cavaco Silva, after a visit he has made to China, he continued in private as in public to avoid saying anything about our rather different approach in Hong Kong to what is being done in Macau. Nevertheless, he is quite explicit that whether or not Macau succeeds will depend above all on what happens in Hong Kong.

Friday 22 April

I got to speak at the American Chamber of Commerce, once again on MFN, and Anson has flown to Washington to lobby on the same subject. Sir Michael Palliser, one of the FCO’s now retired master diplomats, who has just been in Beijing, agreed with Robin that there is no real sign of discrimination against British trade. But he thinks the economy there looks as though it is in danger of getting out of control. Most of the argument about British trade now involves an unprovable negative.

Saturday 23 April

I had a gubernatorial ‘first’ when I made a speech at an exhibition held by the Confederation of Trade Unions.

Sunday 24 April

It was announced that President Nixon has died. I hope they are wearing black armbands in Beijing.

The Prince of Wales is to come and address an environment conference in November. Patrick Jenkin, for whom I worked for a brief period as parliamentary private secretary, is one of the organizers. Initially he was enthusiastically pressing me to take part. But today I received a letter from him saying it might make a difference to Chinese participation if I were to do so, so maybe I will understand if I am stood down on this occasion. Of course, he still wants to stay with us!

Monday 25 April

Patrick Gillam, the chairman of Standard Chartered Bank, came in for a meeting and wanted to explain to me why Percy Cradock has been taken on as an adviser. He said that this is no sort of political statement, to which I responded that the Hong Kong government and the British government may take a rather different view. I then suggested that perhaps his recruitment is a result of his being so clever about derivatives trading. Percy has just made yet another speech rotting us off. I’m not sure that it makes much difference these days, though maybe it encourages Beijing to behave badly. Someone who has behaved very well is Jimmy McGregor, who as a result has been thrown off the General Chamber of Commerce executive committee by a huge margin. His opponents had organized all the proxy votes against him. This is another reason why we need to have decently organized functional constituencies.

Tuesday 26 April

Today, I said farewell to a clever and decent woman, Mrs Chiu, who was my interpreter when I went to Beijing. She is the Hong Kong government’s main Mandarin interpreter and did all the talks for us last year. Her family has gone off to Vancouver, even though her husband doesn’t yet have a job, and she is going to join them. She says that she can’t face the prospect of Hong Kong after 1997. She is a first-class interpreter and an extraordinarily nice woman. We shall miss her. I suspect that we gave her too much exposure to Beijing communist officials, which must have given her all too accurate an idea of what the future might have to offer. The worst person for whom she has ever had to interpret? Zhou Nan, she replies.

I then saw the very kind and smart Canadian journalist John Fraser. John has worked for the Toronto Globe and Mail in Beijing. He is negative about the prospects for anything resembling freedom in China and worried about the position of some of today’s dissidents. He is another addition to my tally of good Canadians; the other side of the balance sheet is pretty bare.

We got the widely forecast ‘big snub’ from Lu Ping with a letter saying that unfortunately he can’t meet me when he is in Hong Kong owing to his busy schedule. One of the things he is doing is attending celebrations in the Bank of China, to which I am not of course invited. I suppose that is kind of them.

Monday 2 May

Lu Ping week. My tone is going to be sanctimonious energy, but not too frenetic. I began with what was a fairly normal day: a discussion on lobbying in Legco on our election proposals, a parade by the police to mark their 150th anniversary followed by a reception and speech, the inspection of a ceremonial guard at GH, lunch at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce with Canada’s Governor-General, followed by a meeting with the New Zealand opposition leader, Helen Clark (bright and feisty), and then off to open a Chagall exhibition for the French at the Cultural Centre. Lu got off to a bad start on Sunday by declining to answer journalists’ questions when he arrived at the station in Hong Kong, after which he was slipped out of the building through a back door to avoid demonstrations about the Xi Jang case. For the whole of today he has been holed up with his brethren on the Preliminary Working Committee, presumably telling them what they should be doing.

Tuesday 3 May

I had a thoroughly enjoyable visit to a housing estate where quite by accident I met the mother of one of our stewards and the father of one of my private secretaries, Clement Leung. How’s that for a coincidental double? Clement’s dad, who is a refugee from the mainland, is rightly proud of his son. Clement is an example of how, unlike so many other places, Hong Kong really has been a great place for social mobility. His parents speak very little English, if any at all, and his dad is a lorry driver. Clement went to university and passed through exams into the fast stream of the civil service. You would like him in your private office if you were a minister anywhere. He is both cheerful and serious and works flat out the whole time. There were big crowds around the public housing blocks, and at a press conference at the end I was able to say, looking as cheerful as possible, that my door is always open for Lu Ping.

Thursday 5 May

Lu Ping has had rather a difficult week on the whole trying to do the double of avoiding the press while getting publicity. His training has not surprisingly failed to furnish him with the talent or experience to bring this off. Tsang Yok-sing has told some journalists that the reason why Lu Ping hasn’t seen me is that Percy Cradock advised Zhou Nan and other Chinese officials that nobody should give me face by meeting me. After all, he had apparently said, if they were to meet me it would suggest that you could stand up to China and get away with it. But how would he know?

Monday 9 May

There’s lots of polling in the press, and since some of what it tells us is good news I read it very carefully. (When I was party chairman I was so used to getting bad polls that I find the contrary experience one in which I can enthusiastically paddle.) Lavender thinks that this may be bad for me. She will always, thank heavens, be ready with correctives to any signs of vanity or megalomania. Anyway, the general readout of the polls is that Lu Ping’s visit has lowered people’s confidence in the transition, that I seem to have become more popular, and that confidence in the future is at its lowest ebb. That is not something that can cheer any of us up.

Thursday 12 May

My birthday, and no ordinary one. I am 50 today. Lavender gave me a really beautiful Tang horse. Just because I am 50, I hope that I don’t have to regard this as the beginning of the home stretch. After an extremely interesting discussion with senior officials in the Education Department about the appropriate language instruction in schools – how much should we do in Cantonese? And how much value would young people get from better spoken and written English? – I went off for the wonderful evening treat which Lavender organized, a surprise party on Lamma at the Pigeon restaurant. We travelled in the Lady Maurine, which has some difficulty in berthing at the right place, so we then arrived pretty late. I am not sure why so many of our staff find it impossible to map-read and equally impossible to admit that they can’t. But we had a smashing evening – the Murrays, the Courtaulds, the Thompsons, the Holbertons, the Mirskys, Peter Barry, David Tang, Lavender and Alice. I like receiving presents and got an especially nice painting from David Tang.

But in the midst of life … When we got home to GH we heard that John Smith died today of a heart attack. It is very bad news for Britain. He was a fine man and would almost certainly have made an excellent reforming Prime Minister. Scotland would have been thrilled, and the rest of the kingdom would have found him an authentic radical with whom they could identify even if they disagreed with some of his views. A sad day for our country.

Friday 13 May

We’re starting to be a little concerned about manoeuvring in Legco to find support for amendments to our election bill. These suggested changes (for example, specifying what we were prepared to talk to Beijing about during our endless rounds of discussions) could in effect destroy the whole bill, or at least undermine the integrity of our proposals. In the course of some general lobbying at a lunch given regularly for members of what Hong Kong regards as its establishment, one ghastly old stockbroker at my table told me that Martin Lee should be shot or at the very least told to go back to China where he came from. If we applied this to Hong Kong as a whole, of course, there would be hardly anyone here. I just about manage to button my lip and avoid telling the ludicrous old bore that maybe he should go back to Hampshire or wherever he came from.

Just before going off to Fanling for the weekend, we attended the Auxiliary Police ball, where Anson is of course the consort accompanying her husband, Archie, the Commandant. Anson and I had a good talk about her recent trip to Washington, which has been very successful, partly lobbying for MFN. She has had great access and has terrific credibility there. If only the Beijing bruisers understood that this is good news for them as well as for Hong Kong.

Sunday 15 May

I finished writing my Rab lecture (for delivery when I am next in London). He was a great man and of course it is a political cliché to say that he was one of the very greatest prime ministers that we never had, with a remarkable ability to turn sensible policies into workable legislation. It is sad that he and Macmillan had such an awful relationship, divided by their attitudes to Hitler and appeasement.

Monday 16 May

I saw Henry Kissinger. He has been in China and had pretty routine meetings with most leaders except Zhu Rongji, who gave him the impression of being rather nervous about things and who spoke extensively in the first person singular. He said that he had never heard this before from any Chinese leaders, including Mao. He recounted all the things that Zhu was trying to do to save the economy and how he seemed to be thwarted at every turn. In the evening I spoke to a full meeting of Amnesty International on human rights. At the end somebody asked me about the case of a boy going back to China. I hadn’t heard of it and say so. I scent trouble.

Tuesday 17 May

The trouble comes in big time. The story has hit the front pages. The little boy in question was born in China and smuggled into Hong Kong by his mother, who has residence here. She left his sisters, one at the time aged six, with their grandparents and the rest of their family in China. For the last three years the mother and her husband have apparently been fighting a decision in the courts to remove the child to China. It’s been through all the normal legal channels, including the Court of Appeal, and been handled in exactly the normal way. Since 1980 petitions haven’t been dealt with by governors but have been the responsibility of the Secretary of Security on the Governor’s behalf. However, in this case, it’s particularly embarrassing in view of the question asked last night and the fact that the security branch didn’t give me or any of us at GH any warning about it, despite the fact that it’s a pretty sensitive matter. I’ve reviewed the papers and come to the conclusion that the branch actually made the right decision, though it is the sort of outcome which will be impossible to defend to part of the community. I’m thinking in particular of those with liberal sympathies and expatriates. We get huge numbers of faxes and letters about it. ‘How could you be so hard-hearted as to send this little boy back?’ The truth is that it was his mother who abandoned him in China not the government that is separating the family. Going through all the legal processes, how can we justify making one decision for this little boy while we have apparently sent back 2200 other children in the last three years? What, moreover, do we do the next time there is a case like this? While a lot of people with liberal opinions are bashing us, we are not being criticized by any elected politician.

These sorts of issues normally come at least in pairs, so we find another case has been raised involving two illegal immigrants, young women who have been held in prison for over seven months as witnesses in a trial. It seems to me a pretty intolerable way of behaving but I’m told that it has been standard practice for some time. We let the young women out straight away into the care of the Social Welfare Department and set up a review of the whole practice. It’s obviously an area where one can act reasonably without facing awful repercussions elsewhere.

Wednesday 18–Thursday 19 May

We had visits from Lord Young, who seems rather downbeat now about what is happening to the economy in China, and Geoffrey and Elspeth Howe, who have just been in Beijing. Geoffrey has now abandoned his metaphor about Hong Kong being like a Ming vase and now compares it to a rhubarb tree. I’m not really sure what he’s talking about, but even though we disagree about Hong Kong he clearly doesn’t intend to be publicly embarrassing. There is also a House of Lords debate in which there continues to be a front bench consensus, but there are one or two predictable speeches attacking us. Is it simply a coincidence that the main critics all have commercial interests in China or Hong Kong which they think are threatened by being in favour of keeping our word here? Lord Cromer, who is a director of Inchcape, is very noisy in his criticisms; no surprise here since the senior executive, Charles Mackay, who was initially very supportive when we told him what we were planning to do, is now particularly outspoken. It’s a pity that he doesn’t spend more time running a better company given all the advantages it has here. Richard Marsh also has a go at us; he just happens to be a director of an investment company in China. Rather like Jim Callaghan he doesn’t seem to give great priority to human rights. Perhaps this is socialism with British characteristics.

Monday 30 May

We flew back to London on Friday night 20th May, and saw daughters, relations and friends. The political atmosphere does not suggest that the government is brimming with self-confidence. I had lots of meetings at the Foreign Office, mostly about human rights, and supper at No. 10 with the Prime Minister, who is in pretty good form given the poisonous political mood. I gave a speech to the Thirty Club on Hong Kong, my lecture on Rab at the Carlton Club, and a lecture in Manchester to the splendidly called Literary and Philosophical Society in the great hall of the town hall after visiting Chinatown. I did a bit of my usual stuff about the returning son of Manchester, or at least grandson.

But the highlight or maybe lowlight of the Patten week is that, back in Hong Kong, Whisky has been arrested for nipping a labourer who was doing some repairs and decoration in GH. The rule of law applies to all, including the Governor’s terrier. He has been taken off looking very sorry for himself to government kennels for a week in quarantine. The press are hugely excited. It’s a big story and even makes the English papers. Some people think that our dogs are better known than Lavender and the Governor. Perhaps this is because neither of us has ever bitten a builder.

Public debate is going to be dominated for a bit this summer by the question of whether or not we decide to set up a human rights commission and what we will do about private members’ bills both on this and about statutory rights to information and equal opportunities. This whole tangle of issues will need very careful examination. We haven’t even got the political reform bill through yet, but we are already being denounced for being feeble about human rights. There are always two major stories here: either you are kowtowing to Beijing or you are looking for a fight. People sometimes move from one position to the other in the space of the same paragraph, or even sentence. I just wish that those who are pressing us to go further now on human rights (with no very obvious community support or political gain at present) would stand up and support us when we do something which is really important like making the electoral system reasonable. In due course, we will have to make small changes on issues like public order.

Tuesday 31 May

I told Lydia a few days ago that we had heard from London that the Hong Kong Bank had briefed members of the House of Lords before the recent debates to give them ammunition to fire at us. She wrote immediately to Willie Purves and within days I received a personal letter from him saying that the Bank was entirely innocent of this. Things are looking more hopeful on one or two fronts, for example the airport and defence lands, on the last of which it is suggested that the Chinese have overplayed their hand because of intervention by the military, but that they really do want a settlement. We just have to keep calm and maintain a firm line. We are putting together some ideas for cooling down property prices and are planning the final proposals for an old-age pension. We want to sell this hard in July. We intend to put HK$10 billion into the scheme as the government’s contribution, which would mean that employers and employees would only need to contribute about 1/3 themselves. This should give us a chance to open up a new agenda. Better care for the elderly at an affordable cost.

Saturday 4 June

The 1989 Tiananmen killings vigil went off peacefully in Hong Kong; at least 30,000 people turned out in Victoria Park. Edward went with the Courtaulds and the Labour MP Mark Fisher, who is visiting. They were snapped by a Ming Pao photographer. I wish I could go myself but I guess that would be regarded as more than injudicious. Our political discussions are still dominated by the management of our election bill. It looks as though there are two main hurdles to clear. First we have to see off the Allen Lee party amendment, which may have attracted some middle ground support on the argument that it represents some sort of consensus by making all the adjustments which we’d tentatively discussed during the endless rounds of talks; and secondly, we have to get the majority for our own bill. There are all sorts of awkward problems. How will the pro-Beijing legislators vote? Will they be abstaining on the Allen Lee amendment on the grounds that they shouldn’t do anything to try to ‘improve’ the bill and then vote against us? How will the independent group vote? We are doing all the lobbying we can. There is also some suggestion that Allen Lee’s lot, if they lose their amendment, will then vote for Emily Lau’s bill, which is being taken after ours and which would allow for a completely directly elected Legco. I can’t believe that they would actually be so daft, although some of them are saying that they will do this to embarrass me.

Wednesday 8 June

Emily Lau came in for a meeting. She wanted to check on whether I have lost my nerve and am about to kowtow to China. I patiently went through everything we have been doing. She even nodded in agreement from time to time. But, of course, she left my office to go out and denounce me. I sometimes think that for many of the politicians who come to see me, the main objective is to be able to have a stand-up with the press afterwards and to rot me off. To her credit, Emily, like others, has good reason for being suspicious of the British and for speaking out about it. This point is rubbed home when David Ford, who is in town, confirms that three peers told our office in London that the Hong Kong Bank had offered to brief them for the recent House of Lords debate. I can now write back to Willie Purves and say that three peers obviously got the wrong end of the stick. Emily, Martin Lee and their political colleagues don’t stab in the back and are not hypocrites. Talking of hypocrisy, Charles Mackay comes in to grovel and to apologize about Lord Cromer’s remarks in that almost entirely ignored Lords debate. Why do they bother? I am also told that Mackay’s wife is complaining that I snubbed her at Glyndebourne the other day on our trip back to Britain. I’m sure she is a very nice person, and perhaps I should know her, but I don’t think I would recognize her unless she landed by parachute singing an aria on GH lawn.

Friday 10 June

Lavender and I went again to the Bradbury Hospice at Shatin. She, Caroline Courtauld and a few others have – with the help of some of our favourite nuns – really helped to get the hospice movement off the ground. I don’t think there’s much willingness to face the prospect of death in any society, but there seems to be particular resistance in some Chinese communities. Giving people the chance to die in dignity with as little pain as possible is a terrific cause, and there is no reason at all why it shouldn’t become much more widely supported in Hong Kong. In the evening, we had the Queen’s Birthday reception at GH and it stopped raining in time for us to be able to hold Beating the Retreat in the garden rather than the ballroom.

Sunday 12 June

Richard Needham is staying with us. He has supported what we are doing but gives me a lecture about not allowing a bunker mentality to develop. He says that I’ve got to be nicer to businessmen; who he claims are feeling hard done by. Well, it can’t be because of anything happening in the Hong Kong economy, which is still blasting away at full throttle. Maybe this rankles with some who have been proved wrong; we stood up to China and the roof didn’t fall in. But he is right that without loving them all to bits, I should at least love those who don’t constantly claim – usually behind our backs – that we’ve done a disastrous job. And he concedes that the hypocrisy is quite difficult to take.

Monday 13 June

It’s a public holiday so we went off to the dragon boat races in Tsuen Wan. Thomas Chow, who used to work in my private office, is now the district officer. He helped to give us a great day despite the murky weather. We got a friendly reception from the oarsmen and from the crowds, and afterwards went to have lunch at one of the Greasy Goose restaurants. There was a wonderful view of the new bridge; it’s starting to look terrific.

We’re trying to work out how we should handle the launch of new proposals on open government, but our principal discussions at the moment are about vote counting for our election bill. I see individuals and groups to try to persuade them not to scupper it, in some cases by being too clever about how some amendments may (or more likely may not) please Beijing. At the same time, we’re detecting an improvement in the atmosphere of our relations with them. This is affecting discussions on the airport, the container terminal and defence lands. Why should this be happening? I think there are three reasons. First of all, China’s relations with Taiwan are going very badly; they may be reluctant to see things deteriorating in other areas too. Secondly, domestic policy in China, especially in relation to the economy, is beset with difficulties; they may want Hong Kong to be a more positive element not least because of its economic importance. Thirdly, time is starting to run out for them to muck us about without it affecting their own interests. They are also realists. I don’t think they want to keep a row going on indefinitely, and maybe our restraint over the human rights commission and one or two other matters has marginalized those who continue to pretend that we are part of an international plot, trying to turn Hong Kong into a community which is going to subvert Chinese communist rule. They may also have observed that our successful lobbying in Washington about MFN is a rather unlikely element in any anti-China plot. But as ever, who knows? To my surprise I even see a banker from Barclays who thinks that the fact that they have been handed back a bit of business which they had previously lost is a sign of a warming in the political climate.

Friday 17 June

We had a very good discussion of the details of the deal on defence lands with Alan Paul and his excellent JLG team. All the sticking points remain much the same – exclusive use of the lands for defence purposes, our refusal to give financial guarantees about re-provisioning which could land the UK with contingent liabilities since we can’t be sure that this Legco would vote the funds at the moment, and the size of the naval base. But all in all, it looks as though we are very close to an agreement. We know that China wants one and that Alan is an extremely skilful negotiator.

From now until the end of the month is probably the most important week or so in my time as Governor. Can we make progress on defence lands and the airport while at the same time getting our election proposals through Legco? Kevin Murphy, from the Herald Tribune, is suggesting that the story should be ‘Patten is getting away with it’. No one was saying this would be possible, but in his view it provides an opportunity for establishing politics in Hong Kong in a way that won’t disappear. I am not so sure about this but it is certainly true that we would be making rather a substantial point about dealing with Beijing. Doubtless the result in some quarters in Hong Kong will be that we’ve done some sort of secret deal with China. Who said you could ever win? There is a huge amount of lobbying to do over the coming days. Lydia has arranged to be on holiday, not the best timing for the senior member of Exco.

Wednesday 22 June

We haven’t made much progress in the JLG, though the atmosphere is said to be better. They are obviously having some difficulty making up their minds about defence lands but are proposing a meeting on the airport in the next few days. Our pension plans are going forward very well. The Chinese side are suspicious about welfare state spending, which is odd really from a communist regime – and even odder since they are pressing us to increase the amount of money put aside for civil service pensions.

This afternoon, after I opened the Pamela Youde Eastern Hospital, I returned to learn that the Chinese side weren’t ready to reach an agreement at the JLG today on defence lands. So what we hope will be the final discussion is postponed until next week. This may also mean going slow on an airport agreement. Just to help things along, the Treasury in London, having agreed a form of words on defence lands a couple of weeks ago that limits any obligations in the future on British funds, is now making objections that we haven’t gone far enough in ensuring that there won’t be a contingent guarantee by the United Kingdom to cover any necessary expenditure on the defence estate in the future. We have responded that we haven’t landed the UK with future obligations, but the Treasury insist that we shouldn’t reach an agreement until the matter has been sorted out. I sent a telegram back to London saying that we just can’t wait and that we are going to go ahead with our present proposals. If anybody wants to take the matter up, I continued, I will discuss it with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. I hope this rather grand gesture will have its effect.

Saturday 25 June

I’ve heard from Alan Paul that the defence lands talks appear to have made a final breakthrough and agreed a form of words on guarantees which the Chinese can accept. It’s not yet in the bag. But we seem to have shut up the Treasury in London. Alan has been doing a wonderful job.

Sunday 26 June

We spend a lovely day at Fanling. Lavender and I have had our longest talk yet on what happens if our election bill is sunk without trace during the next few days. We agreed that it would be very difficult for me to hang on, politically wounded and not capable of getting much done. It might be better to go home, tail between legs, and try to find something else to do in life. I’m not sure that the community would find a really lame duck Governor much inspiration between now and 1997. I think I would be finished in politics. Lavender and I would both be extremely sad. But I don’t think I’d leave regretting what we’ve tried to do.

Tuesday 28 June

We seem to spend most of the week beginning on 27 June lobbying about our electoral proposals. Allen Lee’s group of alleged liberals (most of them appointed by the government) are trying to force through amendments that they suggest would take things back to where we were prepared to compromise during our talks in Beijing. This isn’t actually true but it sounds like a sufficient compromise to convince one or two more centrist members of Legco that it would satisfy the CCP without looking as though any democratic ambitions had been abandoned. These more centrist figures (who call themselves the breakfast group) are under huge pressure from employers like HSBC and the Hang Seng Bank. In addition solicitors seem to be lobbying for this sort of bill-wrecking compromise, and the barristers are pressing the other way. I feel sorry for those in the middle who are on the whole decent in their opinions but are all too easily persuaded that what they are being asked to do is really helpful to us and the rest of humanity. The arguments they use tend to be too clever by half. In my experience this has always been a recipe in politics for disaster. We’ve also had a crazy sideshow which went nowhere about whether a couple of representatives from the New Territories, at least one of whom is an adviser to Beijing, will involve themselves in an elaborate manoeuvre of abstentions on the Allen Lee amendment in return for cutting a deal on their (as usual) pretty Neanderthal plans for the New Territories with Martin Lee’s Democrats. And so it goes on. There have been phone calls from Lu Ping during the debate to Legco members who are said to be wobbling, and it is also alleged that Willie Purves has been making calls from Beijing. If true it’s convenient that the CCP will know through intercepts that he’s been a good boy. I guess that the whole thing would have been immediately comprehensible to LBJ in Texas.

Wednesday 29 June

This had been the crucial day and evening some of our officials and one or two Exco members, notably Denis Chang, talked and lobbied heroically throughout. I waited for the result in GH with my private office, Martin and Edward. Whether or not the Almighty intervenes, as the night wears on towards dawn, we win across the board. We saw off the Allen Lee amendment by a single vote, with a majority of eight – 32 to 24 – on our bill, and then saw off Emily Lau’s bill for a completely directly elected Legco by 21 votes to 20. How nice if this could have been our attainable objective; a few years earlier it might well have been, but the dubious consultation with the community on the number of directly elected seats in the late 1980s closed off this option. In any event the overall result is terrific. After nearly two years of ups and downs, we have made it. The result has been achieved in the face of the Chinese Communist Party, a good part of the Hong Kong establishment, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, quite a large part of the Anglo-Hong Kong commercial aristocracy, several of our most distinguished FCO former mandarins, and almost everyone who has been honoured by the Crown or who has profited most materially from Hong Kong. Needless to say, if you had stripped out of the voting figures those who were appointed rather than elected, the results would have been very much better for us. I suspect as well that those who do not have foreign passports would have given us a big majority.

Thursday 30 June

Up at 6.15 and thought I should go and pay my respects. I went to early mass; Edward came with me. He didn’t go to bed at all. It was a beautiful morning. Leo Goodstadt was there in his pew. My head felt as though it is made of cotton wool and I couldn’t quite bring myself to recognize what has happened. There is a big headline in one of the English-language papers – ‘Patten Triumphs’.

Once again, Lavender had helped to keep me sane and to manage my nerves. It’s worth looking at this rather dramatic day from the perspective of her diary:

‘I don’t want to have to endure another day like today too often. There were rumours and reports all morning of wobbles and backsliding, of cock-ups and cackhanded behaviour. Later on, we heard that Lu Ping had rung up two of the independents to try to persuade them to support the Allen Lee group amendment. So far they had resisted … If that isn’t political interference, I don’t know what is.

‘Chris spent the morning prowling from room to room trying to occupy himself. I had a meeting with the Community Chest people, then had a chat with Caroline Courtauld and did an interview with Francis Gerard for the programme he is doing with Jonathan Dimbleby. Chris had a district visit to keep him busy in the afternoon and later I had the AGM of the Community Chest. Afterwards there was tea and I met some of the people the Chest gives money to. Then there was a board meeting. I thought it was significant that not a single one of the business people said they hoped it would go all right for Chris, but they may just have been being tactful. My heart was in my mouth as we got back to Government House at 7pm, but in fact the results of the first important amendment, the one by Allen Lee’s lot, didn’t come until nearly 8pm. Chris and I had been watching a repeat of Wimbledon in a desultory way when Edward came rushing up to the flat and said that we had defeated the amendment by 29 votes to 28. The narrowest of margins but enough. The relief was huge. We went down to private office, where everyone had gathered … And we had a lot of champagne and then supper. There was much hilarity. Afterwards, the chaps stayed in the office to hear the rest of the debate on the main vote, but the feeling is that it’s fairly plain sailing from here on.

‘Chris came up at 3.45am to tell me that the vote was 32 to 24. It’s all over and it’s all been worth it. How wonderful that it’s out of the way. Good for Hong Kong to have taken such a big responsibility and come up with the right result. Of course, there was a lot of the ‘we was robbed’ and ‘it was only a tiny majority’ quotes from the opposition, but a majority is a majority. Chris got up at 6.15 to go to church. Then a big breakfast to celebrate. The first time he has had bacon and eggs for months!’

At our first meeting back in the office there are many tales from the trenches. Who said what to whom and with what effects? It’s the last day of this round of the JLG. The general wisdom, except from Hugh Davies and Alan Paul, is that the Chinese couldn’t possibly let us have the defence lands deal the day after the bill has passed. In the event, that is exactly what they did. So much for General Wisdom, who quite often gets things wrong, not least when he is based in London. In the evening we went to David Tang’s China Club to celebrate the Club’s third anniversary. Gossiping, we conclude that those we expected to behave well have done so, and the reverse is true. One or two people have already been putting themselves forward to the Foreign Secretary as possible successors, and alas I’m told that Jim Prior has been berating Jardine’s in London for ‘letting’ Martin Barrow go his own decent way.

Friday 1 July

The British press has been very good, with supportive leading articles from the FT, The Times, the TelegraphIndependent and Guardian.

I spent much of the day phoning people or writing to them to say thank you and I did quite a few interviews for newspapers and television. It’s the Canadian National Day and the excellent, though alas departing, consul, John Higginbotham, described in his usually sharp way what has happened – that instead of being told we’re dead, we have just got notice that we are simply terminally ill. I got his point straight away. He does not have much trust in the CCP. So, as he is suggesting, it’s important to keep one day’s votes for decency in perspective. I also went to visit the registration electoral office, where our voter registration drive has just ended with very good results. Registration has gone up about 50% or more during this last campaign. We went to a concert in the evening with Richard and Rosie Hoare. Verdi’s Te Deum on the programme. When they decided (presumably weeks ago) what to perform today, did the Hong Kong Philharmonic know something that we didn’t know?

Saturday 2–Sunday 3 July

Over the weekend I’ve ticked off the week’s successes: the election bill, defence lands and agreement from Legco only yesterday for HK$15 billion to continue work on the airport. And we seem to have survived a moderate row over deciding to stay where we are for the present on human rights legislation and not to set up a separate commission. The agreement on money for the airport means that it doesn’t really matter very much now whether we get an early deal with the Chinese or not; we can still carry on with the work.

I’m reading a book which the FT want me to review by my old permanent secretary in Northern Ireland and my good friend, Maurice Hayes. It’s called Sweet Killough Let Go Your Anchor and is about his life growing up a Catholic in the Province. It is beautifully written and I always enjoy writing things for this paper. They don’t muck your copy about too much and your articles are read by people you want to read them.

Monday 4 July

Discussion about senior appointments. I think the sensible thing to do is just go ahead and make them, telling the Chinese in advance rather than trying to make each one the subject of a haggle. We would never get anywhere in those circumstances. Those officials given the thumbs down by the Chinese would be put in an impossible position.

Lydia Dunn came in for a meeting back from holiday and full of praise for the result of the vote. Many thanks; sad you couldn’t be with us. I have a definite feeling that in London the vultures have been circling. Jim Prior evidently had a very bad meeting recently with Li Peng, who put the frighteners on him, and David Young has also been getting at Margaret. She remains stalwart, to use one of her own words. She has written me a very nice letter, as has Paddy Ashdown. I have dinner out with Michael Sze and a group of middle-ranking civil servants. They seem pretty relaxed about the future. Michael has lined up a good guy called John Tsang to be my next private secretary when Bowen moves on.

Tuesday 5 July

We had a farewell dinner at GH for John and Diane Foley; he has been a very good CBF. He is what, I believe, the army call a thinking soldier. Alice has left for the UK for the summer holidays. The tower in GH will be very quiet and the dogs will be sad for a couple of days.

We seem to be having some success with our attempts to control the rise in property prices rather than flatten the whole market. The top prices have fallen by between 5 and 20%. I’ve had a fairly argumentative interview for the papers with Margaret Ng. She is a clever, brave and articulate barrister who takes the traditional anti-colonialist view. Nothing we ever do is right. I understand why people got into this situation; only 10 or 15 years ago they were treated as enemies of the state for wanting a modest amount of democracy. But in any argument about fundamentals I think I would always find myself on the same side as people like her. Then I took Lavender out for a quiet dinner at Grissini’s to say thank you. We are approaching our halfway mark here. As my mum would have said, Lavender has been a real brick. She does about twice as many engagements as people were expecting. I have started calling her ‘Central’, like the politburo. Martin doesn’t think this is very romantic. But she is certainly central for me.

Thursday 7 July

At a Legco Q and A this afternoon I tried to be courteous, charming and uncontroversial. This is what Jonathan Mirsky calls my ‘Confucian mode’. I saw Gerry Segal and Nicholas Colchester, who runs the Economist Intelligence Unit. He is concerned about the rule of law in Hong Kong and I pointed out some of the difficulties confronting us. Good barristers are paid so much that they are disinclined to go on the bench and solicitors are always ready to compromise with China given the amount of business involving mainland companies and investors. After that Lavender and I then went to the community English-language lab organized by the Anglo-Hong Kong Trust, a David Tang and Simon Murray initiative. There were lots of people there and six children reciting rather difficult poems in English. It would be difficult to find six English children reciting English poems back home. Inevitably one of them (given David Tang’s sense of humour) recited Cavafy’s poem on a Greek colony: ‘That things in the colony aren’t what they should be / no one can doubt any longer, / and though in spite of everything we do move forward / maybe – as more than a few believe – the time has come / to bring in a political reformer’.

Friday 8 July

I went to the police special duties unit at Fanling – it is our equivalent of the SAS. I fire machine-guns and pistols at targets. When the unit do this they get their colleagues to stand next to the targets. I make the suggestion to Martin and Edward when surprisingly they decline to do the same. I wrote this week to Lu Ping about our pension proposals; he told his Preliminary Working Committee, and they passed all the details to the press. We will remind Lu of this next time he asks to be briefed on everything.

Kim and Edward came up to Fanling. We all went out to dinner at the Pigeon restaurant at Shatin and the following day we took them and the Dinhams out on the boat, though I had to spend much of the time working in the cabin. In the evening we gave Robin and Sue McLaren a dinner with some of their old Hong Kong friends. There is a story in the papers about signs of cholera being detected at a couple of restaurants: we will have to follow this up quickly next week.

Thursday 14 July

At my Business Council meeting this morning we discussed the Consumer Council report on banking. This has proposed getting rid of the interest rate agreement under which the banks in effect coordinate a view on not paying any interest on people’s deposit accounts. There is a good competition policy argument in favour of removing this, but on the other hand I don’t want to put the banks in any difficulties between now and 1997. We got a general endorsement for our land proposals, which seem to have taken the heat out of the market. At the end someone asks whether the Business Council can help with the job that I have referred to from time to time of building bridges between the business community and the pro-democracy politicians. I’ve spoken only recently to Martin Lee and the Democrats about this. I gave the council my oft-repeated line (which I can now do in my sleep) about the importance of the business community recognizing that more democracy isn’t bad for business, and the pro-democracy politicians recognizing the importance of the business agenda. So they should all now sit around the campfire and sing ‘Kumbaya’.

It turns out that the worrying cholera story, promulgated by the Sunday South China Morning Post, was based on water samples from the fish tanks of two restaurants. Apparently, the newspaper knew that the surveys were inconclusive when it printed the story. The latest checks have shown that the water samples were fine. I hope the newspaper gets taken to the cleaners by the restaurants concerned.

Friday 15–Saturday 16 July

Alastair Goodlad is in Beijing on the visit which we strongly advised against making and it is obviously very difficult for him. I hope it doesn’t set things back too much. The telegrams about his meetings at the weekend, on 16 July, make pretty grisly reading. He saw Jiang Enzhu and Qian Qichen and received stern and unbending responses to his efforts to move everything onto a friendlier plain. It’s not his fault. What were we expecting? It was a bloody silly decision by the FCO to send him. After the talks Qian denies in reply to a question from a journalist that he had ever said it was possible to separate political from economic issues. So far from moving things forward we’ve been pushed backwards. It’s the point that the press are most excited about until that is they learn that Alastair is not going to see Lu Ping. (Actually he never was.) They regard this as a huge snub. The one thing that we can’t say, much as we would like to do so, is ‘we told you so’, although we did. The press afterwards is ghastly. It’s so ridiculous to be chasing after the Chinese in this way. We really should just have sat under the tree and waited for things to warm up in their own time.

Monday 18 July

We’ve started discussing the arrangements for functional constituencies (which should not be too complicated) and also decided that with only a couple of years to go we have to make a fuss in the autumn about slow progress in the JLG, where we face a combination of Chinese obduracy and incompetence. We have such a good team there but they are trying to push boulders uphill. I want Douglas to raise this when he sees Qian at the UNGA [United Nations General Assembly].

I had my first one-on-one meeting with the new police commissioner, Eddie Hui. He is a bit concerned about his first trip to Beijing in mid-August. We’ve had a couple of difficult cases of Chinese dissidents slipping into Hong Kong whom Chinese security would like to see returned to their embrace. They are starting to make all sorts of threatening noises about not allowing us to send any illegal immigrants back over the border unless we also send them the people they want to lock up. During an interview with a journalist he tells me that he went to Yunnan shortly after Lavender had been there. One of the people she had spoken to there, a musician who had once been in prison for allegedly dissident activities, was interrogated by the secret police a couple of days after she had met him.

Thursday 21 July

Discussion with FCO advisers and our security officials on how we can take forward the forced repatriation of Vietnamese migrants in September. This is going to be very tricky to organize, particularly as we get closer to the deadline over the next two years. Pushing people in handcuffs onto planes is never going to be comfortable, and it’s not just the most fainthearted liberals who feel queasy about it.

I had my last talk in Hong Kong with the Canadian consul, John Higginbotham, who is off to be number two in the Canadian embassy in Washington. As ever he was full of good sense. He pointed out how the Chinese have failed over the last three years. They polarize the community and yet we have won the argument. Their only support, and that’s pretty rickety, is from the business community, and there the greater backing comes from those with foreign passports. Thanks to their efforts, the airport will cost more than it would have done. They also got rid of David Wilson and got me instead. They have lots of warring groups on their side, all hoping to get their snouts in the trough in Hong Kong. He believes that we have been successful in getting Hong Kong accustomed to the software of a free, open and plural society, that policy previously was a matter of just keeping our fingers crossed about the Joint Declaration and the Chinese commitment to it. We weren’t telling people the truth or making them face up to the reality that they would have to want Hong Kong to succeed if it were to have any chance of doing so after the handover. He thinks that this was in many ways a dreadful hoax. At least we have given Hong Kong citizens the chance to make some of their own decisions about the future. I wish this man had been working in our own foreign service for the last 20 years.

Friday 29nd July

The Cabinet was reshuffled in London on the 22nd. I wonder whether it will make any difference. The last polls before I leave for London, and a holiday in France with Lavender, Alice and a succession of friends, show that here in Hong Kong we have growing, indeed huge, support for our proposals on pensions.

In meetings in the last week of July with the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, Alastair and officials I’ve been arguing that we have less than three years to go; we have had a struggle and there will be some tough pounding to come but I hope we are through the worst. I hope that ‘events’ don’t make it even tougher. At a meeting in the FCO Alastair suggests that one way of putting some more vitality into the JLG would be for ministers occasionally to chair meetings. Needless to say, this sends officials into a tailspin. But it might show that we are prepared to push the Chinese harder to make progress.

The Prime Minister was more cheerful than I’ve seen him for some time. There is a very odd disjuncture at the moment between the economic news, which gets ever better, and the political news, which is ever bleaker. John is happy about the way the reshuffle has gone. Douglas is going to retire from the scene next year. He still doesn’t seem convinced that I can’t conceivably give up in Hong Kong and take over from him. But I suspect that I had the decisive conversation on the subject with John just before the reshuffle, when he phoned up for my views on one or two of the ministers who were going to be involved in the musical chairs and I said once again that I should stay in Hong Kong until the handover.

Sunday 28 August

A big bonus from our holiday in France is that we’ve found and bought a holiday house – at a ridiculously bad exchange rate, but there it is. We were recommended to Stella Wright by John Fraser. Stella knows the property market for foreigners in and around Najac, where we used to have family holidays. We drove across from the Dordogne, where we were staying to see her. She showed us two or three perfectly nice houses. We went back with her to her own house to talk about them; and I said truthfully that much as we had liked them we didn’t care for them as much as we liked her own – to which she replied that she and her husband were selling it. We walked around the garden and made an offer on the spot. Stella and her husband, George, left Britain for New Zealand, found it too quiet even for them, so they upped sticks and came to live in the depths of the French countryside. There is a guest cottage which will need a lot doing to it, but George runs a small building business and his deputy will do the work for us. We have been incredibly lucky.

The only downside of our holiday is that Laura and Kate haven’t been with us. Laura has been working for the Mail on Sunday getting some experience of fashion journalism, and Kate has been travelling not without incident in Asia. In Thailand, the friend with whom she was travelling lost her passport and Vietnamese visa so they weren’t able to get into Vietnam, which had been the principal object of the trip. Anyway, we will see them in September for Lavender’s birthday.

Monday 29 August

We’ve got back and I’ve been in a gloom. It seems to have been raining here ever since we left for our holiday. The house has been leaking and there are signs of mould in one of the guest bedrooms. I find myself answering the same old questions and having to give the same old answers. We don’t seem to be making progress on anything; the JLG is stuck again. It’s never quite clear whether the Chinese are trying to make a point, or whether they simply don’t know what to do, or whether no one in Beijing has the political clout to take any initiatives. But the girls are now with us and David Frost has come to stay and is as ever an amiable parody of himself. Archbishop George Carey and his wife passed through Hong Kong on their way into China to check up on their beleaguered flock there.

Friday 2 September

The National People’s Congress in Beijing has announced that it intends to dissolve the elected legislature in Hong Kong after 1997. I don’t suppose that this should surprise us too much but it’s very depressing, for us, but much more importantly for the community as a whole. I see Ron Brown, the American Commerce Secretary, who has just been in China himself. He is pleased as punch that the Chinese have signed some trade deals with Washington, but the Wall Street Journal is sniffing around to see whether they amount to real business or simply memoranda of understanding with not much follow-through. They also appear to have made threats both before and during his visit that if they don’t get membership of the GATT, they will break international rules on trade and investment whenever it seems to suit them. I think they’ll break the rules even if they are members of the GATT. At least Washington denounces the decision by the NPC.

The best bit of scandal, or maybe it’s just an embarrassment, is that Tsang Yok-sing apparently applied for a Canadian passport after the Tiananmen murders in 1989, although he subsequently withdrew the application. This doesn’t look good for the leader of the pro-Beijing party. His family went ahead with their application and are now settled in Canada.

Monday 5 September

We held a reception for all the families who had received us into their own homes on our district or public housing visits. Most of them had never been to Government House before. We gave them a tour as well as drinks and had a good chat. They seemed delighted. It was well worth the rather modest effort.

Thursday 15 September

We’re spending quite a lot of time considering how we may be able to energize the JLG process. Despite all his problems with Bosnia, Douglas Hurd has agreed that he can break into a longer trip and make a short visit. While he is with us he will go to the JLG. The day before he arrived (15 September) China had another bash at Jardine’s and its involvement in the proposed container terminal nine. There is no particular agenda for Douglas’s brief call, but it’s felt – probably correctly – that it will put him into a stronger position when he meets Qian at the UNGA.

Douglas has met Hugh Davies’s opposite number, Guo Fengmin, and they had a rather inconsequential discussion, which presumably gives Guo himself a certain amount of face. Afterwards, Douglas indicated that he now has a better feel for the problems confronting our JLG team, who continue to try to plant seeds in exceedingly stony ground. We had a delightful dinner for Douglas and FCO officials with a few locals like Martin Lee and Rosanna Wong. Looking for good news wherever one can, Rosanna is extremely complimentary about the improvement in GH food. She says that in the old days she always ate before coming here!

Friday 16 September

We had a really excellent dinner with Raymond Chi’en and his wife at their wonderful house full of fine Chinese antiques in Deep Water Bay overlooking the sea. One of Raymond’s guests is a lawyer who had spent three years in jail in China for alleged spying. He worked for the Chinese politburo and had then gone to work in the USA for an American law firm. The next time he went to China he was arrested. He refused to confess to being a spy, and it took three years to get him out of prison, even longer to get himself rehabilitated. Now, he is back with his own company doing business in China. He takes it as a matter of course that he was wrongly accused by people he knew, who did it to save their own position. His attitude seems to be – ‘that’s what China is like’. This is not a way of life for the fainthearted.

Monday 19 September

Lavender’s 50th birthday. I arranged for her to be woken up by a piper playing ‘Happy Birthday to You’. To be honest it sounded rather odd on the pipes, but it certainly got everybody up. The girls took her out to lunch and then in the evening we have the big treat. After supper, we blindfolded her and took her into the hall, where we had arranged three portraits of the girls that I got a Northern Ireland painter, Tom Hallifax, to do secretly. Blindfold removed, Lavender was thrilled to bits and a little tearful.

Tuesday 20 September

We had held the district board elections today, and after our registration drive we got a record number of people voting – over 600,000. The Democrats have won the majority of seats; Allen Lee’s lot have done badly; and the pro-Beijing DAB have performed reasonably well, which might perhaps constrain just a little Beijing’s hostility to fair elections. But all our sucking up on the JLG seems to have got us nowhere. Hugh Davies and his colleagues have gone to Beijing for meetings and nothing much has emerged, though we have reached a triumphant deal on postage stamps. At a side meeting with Lu Ping, Hugh raised the question of the reporting obligations under the UN covenants and Lu lost his rag for reasons which nobody can quite fathom. Hugh, who is unfailingly polite and courteous, is really quite shocked by the outburst. We will see whether Douglas’s meeting with his opposite number in New York helps to get things moving faster.

Friday 23 September

We have a difficult corner to turn, moving from being thought to be too confrontational with China to offering in a sensible way cooperation without abandoning any of our principles. I am worried about being manoeuvred into no-man’s-land with some people attacking us for kowtowing and others hitting us over the head for still not getting on with China. And whatever we do, how will China respond? My former PA in Parliament, Freda Evans, has arrived for a visit and so have Bob Alexander and his Irish barrister wife, Marie. We saw them in France in the summer. Bob is now chairman of the NatWest Bank and has been in China with a trade delegation. They were given assurances by Vice Premier Li Lanqing that trade and politics would not be mixed up. The truth is that we just don’t know. Exports continue to be very good and British direct investment and joint ventures are also running at a high level.

Sunday 25–Monday 26 September

I arranged a two-day meeting for all my political advisers and the JLG team plus Hong Kong government officials, partly to do a bit of bonding and partly to discuss how to get on better with Beijing, the outlines of what Douglas Hurd should say to Qian and what I should say in my Legco speech on 5 October. We had a barbecue for everybody on Sunday night with open and free-flowing discussion for the best part of two days. We have good ideas on how we can cooperate with Lu Ping’s working committee without compromising the Hong Kong government. Lu has been pressing us to allow somebody from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority to attend a seminar on the link between the US dollar and the Hong Kong dollar. It seems to me to be a harmless gesture to let somebody go along, and the Trade Development Council have already been involved in a similar seminar. We will let Len Appleyard, our new ambassador in Beijing, take this back as a pressie for Lu. I think Len is going to be much happier about talking to his opposite numbers whenever there is nothing difficult on the table. We will miss Robin McLaren, but someone has heard that Sherard Cowper-Coles reckons it’s time for cringe mode. We covered a number of other subjects from the JLG agenda, to the civil service transition, to nationality, and finally the sort of ceremony that we will want at the end when the handover actually takes place. Sherard and I agree that we don’t really need to go plugging away at a comprehensive adaptation of laws. If the Chinese don’t like some of our laws they will doubtless adopt them after the handover. Why should we be obliged to do it all for them beforehand in the interests of ‘convergence’? I hope we can clear problems like this away rather than march them in phalanx up to the conference table.

Tuesday 27 September

At Exco we talked about the pitiful results from the JLG and had a long discussion about the reporting obligations under the International Covenant [on Civil and Political Rights]. Denis Chang is very strong on the principles involved. Andrew Li thinks that the issue is rather more nuanced. He has just been in Beijing, where he was presumably being inspected for future reference. My guess is that he would be reluctant to get involved in the competition to be the next chief executive. The better people there seem to be interested still in Anson among others. Later in the day I see the US Air Force chief of staff and the commander of the Seventh Fleet, who came in with Richard Mueller.fn1 He said that Donald Rumsfeld and a group of Republicans who were in Beijing recently saw Qiao Shi, the chairman of the standing committee on the NPC and a member of the standing committee of the politburo. He told them that there were differences about how to handle Hong Kong that they were trying to resolve. This seems a surprisingly honest admission. Richard also said that he has had a rather bleak meeting with Li Chuwen,fn2 who senior leaders use to try to find out what is happening in Hong Kong. He seemed to be gloomy about any improvements in relations with Hong Kong. He blamed the deterioration on the fact that, after saying that I would leave decisions to Legco, I then lobbied for my own bill on electoral arrangements. This of course overlooks the extremely hard Chinese lobbying, with phone calls from Lu Ping and others to legislators during the debate itself. Li Chuwen spent some time in Hong Kong in the 1980s as the deputy head of the NCNA and has a rather shady past on the fringes of the security services – it is even suggested that his one-time vocation as a pastor was simply a cover.

Douglas seems to have had a productive meeting with Qian Qichen in New York. Qian appears to be reasonably interested in and impressed by what Douglas had to say. Basically, this was that we were very happy to work constructively with the committees established to support Lu Ping, for example we could help them to understand the budgetary process, the way the Hong Kong Monetary Authority worked and our system of immigration controls. But plainly we would not be able to do anything which undermined the existing government and its officials before the change of sovereignty. When there was a designated chief executive we would also want to give him or her support, including staff. Qian put away his speaking notes and there was an unusual role reversal, Douglas delivering a long speaking note and the Chinese Foreign Minister chipping in from time to time. The body language was pretty good, and nothing was said afterwards which detracted from the atmosphere.

Friday 30 September

We celebrated Alice’s birthday by going out for dinner. Before that not part of any sentient human being’s idea of celebration, we had to attend the China National Day reception held this year in the convention centre. There was a large police presence for a rather small crowd of demonstrators outside. The evening was as ghastly as ever, but Zhou Nan was on best behaviour – all smiles and courtesy – and his wife is a genuinely nice woman. It’s the usual combination of forced bonhomie, Chinese communist diplo-speak, a gathering of the quislings and a gauntlet run through the press. I hope that I managed to get away with it; it helped to have Lavender with me. Perhaps Zhou Nan feels the same about the two of us as I do about him and his wife.

Len Appleyard saw Lu Ping today to hand over a copy of the speaking note which Douglas had delivered to Qian. Lu was amiable and read the note with apparent interest and care. However, there is always a piece of grit in the sandwich – Lu gave a warning on the Taiwanese National Day celebrations called ‘Double 10’, because they’re held on 10th October. This is real Murphy’s Law nonsense. A Taiwanese cultural organization has booked a room in the cultural centre for the commemorations. The Chinese are making a huge fuss about this, claiming that it shows we have changed our policy on Taiwan. ‘We have to accept responsibility for the consequences of our actions’, and all the rest of the garbage. It is all part of Beijing’s general upping the ante on Taiwan. They have recently bashed the Japanese and said very tough things to the Americans, probably a response to Taiwan’s increasing assertiveness. Just at the moment when we are trying to improve relations, this is quite likely to derail things again. Predictably we’re getting lots of sound and fury from the local NCNA.

Monday 3 October

I had a very interesting talk with two of our young women researchers from Beijing and Hong Kong, who decided to focus their professional careers on China, and are now starting to discover that they can’t stand it. While they are downbeat about the immediate future, they both reckon that China will muddle through the next few years. After them I had tea with the former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and his wife. I like him whenever I see him and can’t understand why the Canadians chucked him out. He says that Hong Kong is the only place where he thinks some people have been prepared to give up freedom for money. A lot of business leaders appear to have done a Faustian deal with the Chinese; you give us the capitalist part of the Joint Declaration and you can do what you want with the rest. But, sooner or later, the law for Martin Lee is the same as the law for the big corporate bosses.

Tuesday 4 October

At Exco I went through the main points in the Legco speech that I’ve been working on for Wednesday. A lot of it will be showing the progress we’ve made in our social commitments since last year thanks to our healthy economy. But there will be some comments on trying to improve our relationship with Beijing and to move things along in the JLG. We of course discussed the Double 10 row. Virtually everyone is resigned to Chinese explosions, hoping they don’t blow too much apart. Only C. H. Tung thinks in his usual agonizing way that ‘something must be done’, but he is rather less clear about what exactly that is. During a brief talk to Martin Lee, I made the point very gently that during his trip later in the month to the Conservatives’ conference he would be wise not to spend too much time attacking the government. I need to keep the Conservative Party on side as well as Labour.

Wednesday 5 October

My Legco speech seemed to go perfectly well, though you never know that in the chamber since there is barely any reaction at all. It is a bit like speaking to yourself in the bathroom. I gave updates on all our social and educational programmes and explained once again the nature of the cooperation we are very happy to have with Beijing and with the Preparatory and Preliminary Working Committees established by the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HK MAO). I also looked forward to the Legco elections next year and to working with the new legislature. People seem to be scratching their heads about whether we have changed our policy about dealing with Beijing and about the nature of our conversations with them over the next three years. Are we really offering olive branches? If we are, will the Chinese just turn them down? It is really quite simple. If we just give in to all they want us to do with and for their Preliminary Working Committee we might as well cave in now and go home. We would in effect be accepting the same sort of status as Macau. We have got through the last year without having our authority eroded and we have to continue governing Hong Kong ourselves while being as helpful as is reasonable about the future. The thing I worry about most is the establishment of the Court of Final Appeal, where nothing has been done since we came a cropper in Legco in 1991, being defeated over a bill that reflected a secret deal with China on the replacement of the Privy Council as Hong Kong’s top judicial authority. My hunch is that this is going to take up a lot of our energy and political credit over the coming year. I keep on saying this to people and they smile benignly.

During the media phone-ins and interviews and a Legco Q and A session, I hammer away at the same points, that there is a difference between the Preparatory (to be set up) and Preliminary Working Committee set up by Beijing, which are not part of the government of Hong Kong, and the Joint Liaison Group established as part of Sino-British agreements. We are quite prepared to have more cooperation now. We have put forward precise proposals for speeding up the work of the JLG – greater frequency of meetings, and more expert groups with (if China wants) members of its Preliminary Working Committee on these groups. It would be wrong for civil servants to be members of this committee themselves or to attend its official meetings, but we are being as flexible as possible about contacts with individual PWC members. We are not going to put Hong Kong government officials in situations which could compromise them, nor are we going to cede authority to Beijing-appointed committees before 1997.

Thursday 6 October

Richard Mueller gave me a readout of Qian Qichen’s recent meeting with Warren Christopher. Qian spoke fairly warmly about his meetings with Douglas Hurd, remarked on the more positive British approach, but said that he thought we had always recognized that constitutional arrangements without the approval of China would be a second-best and we would have to accept that a consequence was that there would be changes in Hong Kong after 1997. We are picking up now from this full reporting telegram that there was some indication during the Hurd meeting that Qian was concerned that we shouldn’t spend all the money in Hong Kong before we left, nor change all the laws.

The Taiwanese National Day is approaching and the embassy in Beijing, in their maximum cringe mode, are getting very nervous about the Double 10 issue. They want a ‘something must be done’ solution. Perhaps one will arrive by first class post, though this may be too reliant on the deal we’ve done on postage stamps in the JLG. They are behaving as though the Chinese were acting perfectly reasonably. Somehow we should have stopped it all happening, though exactly how is unclear. We go through all the legal arguments about the booking at the Centre, which seem watertight when I talk to senior officials. They are happy with the position that we’ve taken on the Preliminary Working Committee, but one or two are upset by the fact that China has started to target them, telling the media for example that they weren’t invited to the NCNA reception. While one response might be ‘Lucky them’, the intention is obviously to unsettle them about their futures. So we have Mafia behaviour in Hong Kong and cringe in our Beijing embassy. Len phones and says that the Double 10 row is going to wreck all our initiatives. Isn’t there something we can do about it? I politely tell him that there isn’t. I suspect all this is a sign of things to come. As luck would have it, the Anglo-Taiwanese Parliamentary group called to see me today. They are a bunch of mostly right-wing mavericks – Nicholas Winterton, Richard Shepherd, Jerry Wiggin and more similar. At least they support what we are doing in Hong Kong. I hope no one notices they’ve been here, because it will all be regarded as part of a plot – not least by our own side!

Monday 10 October

In the event, the Taiwanese celebrations at the Civic Centre all went off quite quietly, not least thanks to our encouragement behind the scenes. For example, there was no display of flags. My own hunch is that Chinese outrage over this has been pretty routine, but with them who knows?

Lydia Dunn has been in Japan for a week. She expresses Swire’s nervousness that there are indications of people starting to opt to leave Hong Kong before 1997 and concern about rumours that the Chinese Civil Aviation Authority is planning to set up its own airline in Hong Kong after the handover. This would demolish the assurances it has given in the past and would pose a real threat to Cathay. I am not at all sure what the market rate of CCP assurances is.

Friday 14 October

There are more rumours at the end of the week about Deng’s state of health. I guess we must get used to lots more stories about this until the last chapter is actually written. Francis Cornish says that he and the DTI [Department of Trade and Industry] are getting more pessimistic about China trade, rather more because of China’s worrying attitudes to foreign businesses than because of anything we are doing in Hong Kong. There has been a lot of unease about the suggestions that China will set up a provisional legislature (which I think is quite likely) and that all professional qualifications in China will have to be recognized in Hong Kong. I gave a speech for the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Hong Kong Industries (an audience of about 500) pointing out that we are not a socialist administration and that we believe in the importance of the rule of law. We want to get on with China but not at the expense of destroying Hong Kong’s autonomy. It all went quite well in the room, despite a hostile put-up question which I bashed over the boundary, so I don’t believe there will be much publicity. Adrian Swire and Peter Sutchfn3 talked to me about the same problems that Lydia mentioned at the beginning of the week.

Monday 17 October

We face a busy week though politically there’s a slight feeling we are in limbo. It’s as though we’re waiting for something to happen, maybe something dramatic in Beijing or perhaps just an indication of movement on some of our business. For example, it feels as though we are very close to an agreement on the airport and that it is now only a question of when the Chinese decide that face allows them to sign up. If all this stuff about ‘face’ is a mark of an ancient and sophisticated civilization, then bring on the barbarians. Sir Richard Evans, who used to be our ambassador in Beijing, is rather dismissive of Jiang Zemin, saying that he used to see him at the embassy when Richard was the number two there and thought him a rather silly fellow; perhaps this was because of his singing and regular quotation of chunks of Shakespeare. He doesn’t think that Jiang will last very long after Deng’s death. This is a rather conventional view of Jiang, which I am not sure is right. He’s got to the top in that cut-throat system; and has already stayed there for five years. He must have something going for him apart from the ability to remember bits of English poetry and the names of British film stars.

Tuesday 18 October

Richard Needham is in town with a group of 25 businessmen, going elsewhere in Asia rather than China. He wants me to talk to this group and set out our side of what is happening. They were surprisingly understanding. The general view is that doing business in China is never easy and they don’t seem to think that they have actually lost any business recently, even though it may not be politically correct to trade with Britain. One of the businessmen said he is on his 87th visit in China, that it is always ghastly and that rows over Hong Kong don’t seem to make much difference. The feedback from the meeting was very positive; meantime, alas, Jim Prior is still going around London denouncing our policy in Hong Kong and telling anyone who will listen that as a result GEC is doing very badly in China. There is no evidence for this but it doesn’t seem to stop Jim saying it. The truth is that GEC is just not doing very well. Like some other badly performing corporates, they hunt everywhere for a reason that doesn’t point any fingers back at them.

The present Secretary General of the French RPR [Rassemblement pour la République] (who was last here with Mme Pompidou) rather surprisingly endorsed this general view when he called. He is both intelligent and cynical (not at all unusual in my experience in France) and doubts whether being nice to the Chinese actually makes very much difference to doing business with them. He is very reluctant to take China at its own assessment.

Wednesday 19 October

Dinner this evening with Tony Howardfn4 and his wife, Carol. He doesn’t sound so starstruck by Blair as many others. I suspect this is partly because he can’t stand Peter Mandelson. There are quite a lot in that camp but it won’t stop the ascent of this clever and able schemer. Tony thinks that John Smith was far more soundly rooted than Blair and much more part of an authentic British Labour tradition.

Tony Galsworthy is briefly passing through and told us one interesting piece of gossip which he thinks has come from the head of Swiss intelligence. (I imagine this service is good because its members must have the details of all the bank accounts the Chinese leaders have – they have to put their money somewhere as well as Hong Kong.) The story is that Deng’s family are busy looking for a cosmetic expert, and not the sort that you need when you are alive. This is thought to have some significance because when Mao died he apparently went green, which caused all sorts of problems when it came to embalming him.

Friday 21 October

Margaret Thatcher is here and so is Princess Alexandra, once again doing things for the police. We gave them dinner but before that I took Margaret on a district visit to Sai Kung, where she was in indomitable form despite having been obviously knocked about by an operation on her teeth under general anaesthetic during the summer. She charged into crowds and generally behaved as though she was in an election campaign. She has been laying about her with her handbag in meetings with some businessmen, trying to knock them into something approximating to decent shape and criticizing them for crawling to Beijing.

As part of our attempts to do some more serious work with the CCP, we have been trying to find ways in which we can coordinate our activities on cross-border infrastructure projects. What we are looking for is genuine liaison, not things which would give them an armlock on our investment decisions at the moment in Hong Kong. We are autonomous before 1997 and the SAR [Hong Kong Special Administrative Region] government is the same under the JB and BL after that date. We’re trying to agree on some reasonable terms of reference and understand from Lu Ping that at the moment he would like discussions to proceed at a more junior level rather than through someone more senior like Anson Chan. Len Appleyard is having discussions about this with him today.

Sunday 23 October

I’ve been making speeches and going to dinners all week. Gareth Evans and William Rees-Mogg had supper with us on Sunday. Gareth says that when he was last in Beijing, he asked Li Peng about the imprisoned human rights activist Wei Jingsheng. Li responded by saying, ‘You have come here to visit our country. If you want to have an enjoyable visit, you won’t mention that man again.’ Gareth identifies Li Peng as a complete bruiser, which is not difficult. William Rees-Mogg tells us that he doesn’t think the Conservative Party is heading for a wipe-out on 1906 lines. He thinks that Blair will suck away much of the Liberal strength and that the election will be a bit like 1964, with the Labour Party just sneaking home. These ex-cathedra statements by William are (how can one put it courteously?) not always correct. He is not infallible. This is Somerset speaking not Rome.

Anson has just got back from a terrific trip to Canada and the US. She said there was general support in Canada and only a few queries in America about whether we were handling China correctly. She gave typically robust replies to these questions and warned about the avoidance of self-censorship and the importance of freedom of speech, so some of the United Front papers and rent-a-quote politicians are attacking her. We are spending a lot of time talking about the arrangements for infrastructure liaison and on a variety of infrastructure projects, including the airport and my own speciality, sewage strategy.

Tuesday 25 October

Just before we headed off for a rather crowded visit to London, I met the Chief Secretary, the Attorney General, the CJ [Chief Justice] and Michael Sze to talk once again about appointments to the bench, trying to get as many good judges there as possible. The CJ appeared optimistic that he will be able to replace senior judges as they retire with adequate successors. The rest of us were less confident. The real trouble is that there is still a big financial disincentive if you are a successful QC in becoming a judge in Hong Kong. We suggested to the CJ that he should look more widely for candidates, and consider doing a bit of headhunting in Britain and other common law jurisdictions.

Wednesday 26–Monday 31 October

London. I spoke at the Trade Development Council dinner with the Governor of the Bank of England, gave a lecture attacking protectionism for a Swiss bank, had lunch with the Hong Kong Association and another that Alastair Goodlad has organized with Arnold Weinstock, whose only suggestion was that we should withdraw from Hong Kong early since obviously we were going to annoy China until we had abandoned our responsibilities in the territory.

The Prime Minister is in good form, perhaps one of the fruits of the outbreak of peace with the IRA. We went for a walk around the park. I haven’t known him in such high spirits since the last election. All in all, I got the impression (fingers crossed) that the business community was slightly calmer and that nobody much was interested in Hong Kong. I should concede that some of the reactions after my Swiss bank lecture, in which I had called into question the suggestion that human rights were not universal, belonged to the ‘stuff democracy, three cheers for Lee Kuan Yew’ saloon bar school of geopolitical wisdom.

I have refused to see the Conservative Party treasurer, who asked for a meeting, and one or two individual MPs who are keen to lobby on behalf of individual businesses or individuals in Hong Kong. I told the Prime Minister and he is wholly supportive.

At the end of a couple of extremely busy days, Lavender and I flew to Toulouse with Laura and drove up to stay in Cordes for a night while we completed the purchase of our house at Monbretal, did lots of measuring, talked to a builder and started to make some plans for next summer. The thought of having this beautiful French bolthole is certainly going to help me survive whatever the next year or two have to throw at us.

We flew back to Hong Kong on 31 October in time to present awards to industry. I’ve already had a talk to Anson, who came out to see me at the airport full of beans. She had made a fighting speech in Legco defending us against the criticisms of my address there and had then made another commanding speech at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club about the importance of people in Hong Kong standing up for themselves. I think feisty is a word that was specially created for her.

While we seem to be getting close to an agreement on the airport, there is nevertheless concern (expressed very well by David Ford, who is visiting to receive an honorary degree) that we should avoid looking beleaguered and should be aware of some low spirits just below the surface among the civil service, many of whom may depart in the next year or two.

Tuesday 1 November

Jung Chang and her husband, Jon Halliday, had dinner with us. I asked her to rate monsters from 1 to 10. She gave Mao, whose biography she is now writing, 10+.

As we approach the end game over the airport, the Chinese are naturally trying to screw us, going back on things they had accepted even in the press release on the actual text of the agreement. We are digging in. One of the little tricks we are having to cope with is their effort to replace the word ‘monitor’ in the text of the agreement with ‘supervise’ in relation to expenditure. But it’s only a word, they say. A word that makes rather a lot of difference.

Wednesday 2 November

I’ve seen Lord Limerick, the chairman of De La Rue. The Chinese are trying to push the company into a joint venture on the mainland which would in effect transfer technology plus profits in the banknote printing business. A familiar story. You wonder why so many fall for it. He certainly does not. Also, a jolly farewell lunch for Christine Chow, the regional secretary for Hong Kong in Kowloon. She has invited a lot of her female contemporaries, outstandingly good public servants. It seems quite obvious that the public sector has been a much better employer for women than the private; that’s probably the same back home. They had a great gossip about corruption in the ’70s and the Cultural Revolution riots before that. The present dramas seem rather slight by comparison.

Robin Cook has not only become shadow Foreign Secretary but intends to look after Hong Kong himself and wants a lot of briefing about it. I am not sure whether he will try to end the cross-party consensus on our policy here. This would be unhelpful but also unwise.

Amazingly, it seems that we may well get an agreement on the airport by the end of the week. I’m now keen to know where we stand on the Court of Final Appeal [CFA]. Consultations have begun with the legal profession, so we can’t avoid coming to some decisions soon on whether we could set up a credible court to replace the judicial authority of the Privy Council. In Beijing, Len Appleyard is continuing his efforts at bonding. I am not sure how they will withstand the first bad news that he has to pass on to anyone, but I suppose it’s a worthwhile exercise.

Friday 4 November

We signed a minute about the airport at 9.30am. Yet while all this wrangling has been going on, we have been actually building the airport. 11,000 people turn up each day to do the job. Some of the best of it is that the Chinese weren’t able to use the airport as a lever against us. The downside is that the final agreement certainly doesn’t represent the most sensible financing package, but that is for the Special Administrative Region to deal with after 1997 – we are in effect going to fund the airport out of our revenues as we go along, which will be more expensive (given our credit rating) than borrowing the larger part of the costs. But Beijing got obsessed with the idea that we were trying to leave them with huge debts after 1997 on a project which would be a pork barrel for British business. It is always going to be difficult to persuade them that we wouldn’t behave as they would have done.

I gave a farewell lunch to Mike Hanson, who has done such a great job while retaining a remarkable equilibrium as well as his sanity, perhaps helped by the fact that he strongly suspects that it will all end after we’ve gone in tears. To replace him we have an Australian called Kerry McGlynn, who reminds me of why I like Australians (despite cricket) almost as much as Canadians.

Saturday 5 November

In an early test for Kerry, rather than a commemoration of Guy Fawkes’s activities, we had to deal with what the journalists and newspapers concerned think is a wonderful and important stunt. A journalist from the Sunday Times and another from the South China Morning Post broke into Fanling as a demonstration that the security there is awful. Frankly, it is; we tend to apply it only at midday a few hours before someone like the Prince of Wales is due to arrive. I have deliberately turned down suggestions that we should have lights, barbed wire and lots more police at Fanling. What would be the point or justification for this sort of expenditure? But the whole thing is unpleasant. Lavender doesn’t much care for the idea of journalists poking around in our bedroom. The press became very sanctimonious when we quite properly pointed out the costs of police time and so on of this little prank. I am delighted that the police had ensured that the two journalists concerned are still ‘helping the police with their enquiries’ after midnight.

Sunday 6 November

This evening the Prince of Wales did actually arrive for a visit and I’m pleased to say that the security was in place. He’s here in the first place to speak at a conference on the urban environment, and does so much better than most of the others I hear. His officials are keen that I should do an interview for Panorama on the monarchy. They spend rather longer trying to brief me than the interview will take and, while perfectly amiable, behave rather as though I’ve never been on television before. When I actually do the interview the Panorama team think it is pretty boring because, as they say, I play a very straight bat. The truth is that I like and admire Prince Charles and his mother, think that the most important quality in a royal family is a sense of duty, and only get a bit critical when they agree to turn themselves into public celebrities. That’s when they get all the stick. There are also too many of them.

Tony Eason, our senior civil servant responsible for cross-border infrastructure, has returned from China after the first meeting on the subject. It all went very well. Can I say, improbably, that the Chinese behaved very reasonably? If only life was more generally like this. Tony’s interlocutors agreed that the new liaison machinery should not undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy, should speed up rather than delay projects, and that the agenda for meetings should be by mutual agreement. Well, fancy that. We will follow all this up rapidly.

Tuesday 8 November

The editor of the Sunday Times has phoned up to say sorry, not something which editors often do, and so has the journalist concerned. It was all rather daft. I’ve never been very bothered about security, taking the view on the whole that if ‘they’ are going to get you, ‘they’ probably will. I hope that isn’t regarded by the gods is as an excessively simple challenge, like my friend Gary Hart’s challenge to journalists to catch him with his pants down. Alas, good man that he is, that didn’t take them very long.

Wednesday 9 November

I headed out with the Prince of Wales to visit a housing estate. It all went perfectly well with big, well-ordered crowds – a bit too well ordered for my liking. Everybody was behind barriers and Edward discovered afterwards that the Housing Authority had rather foolishly repainted a lot of what the Prince of Wales was going to see. I talk to Rosanna Wong about this and give instructions that it mustn’t happen again. The Prince obviously doesn’t approve of all the high-rise flats and wants us to try something, in his own words, more ‘holistic’. I wonder what this actually means – I don’t dislike all his views on modern architecture but sometimes, like most enthusiasts, he goes over the top. How were we supposed to rehouse all those refugees from mainland China into Hong Kong given its size and topography? But he is miles ahead of most people in public life over the environment and gets criticized for it as though he were off his trolley.

Leon Brittan came for a meeting mostly on trade and I had a good private talk with him about the position the party is getting into over Europe. We are starting to minimize the influence we could have in the Union. We also discussed how foolishly Norman Lamont is behaving. Does he want to get into the government again or does he just want to ruin John Major? The latter seems to make the former impossible, not least since there won’t be a Conservative government if he and others go on behaving the way they are.

Thursday 10 November

We are going to have problems with Legco and parts of the business community about our pension plans. We may have to strike a compromise and in the meantime fetch up paying higher allowances for the elderly. Many businessmen have been arguing for this though it smacks of welfarism and would be a pale copy, or not even that, of our own original proposals. Hong Kong is not a poor community, to put it mildly. If we can’t have the sort of pension scheme that exists in so many Western countries, I will focus on a provident fund – with mandatory contributions from employers and their staff – like the one in Singapore.

Lavender has been making a lot of speeches – on family welfare, on AIDS and even on diarrhoea (don’t ask me). I have also done loads of ‘say it again Guv’ interviews and a prize-giving at the excellent King George V School speech day in Kowloon. ‘Success is not enough …’ and all that: a very well-travelled speech.

Saturday 12–Sunday 20 November

We’ve had a short visit to the West Coast of America (starting on 12th November) with loads of speeches from Orange County to Los Angeles, to San Francisco and finally Seattle. They are mostly organized by World Affairs Councils. There are very good audiences of 600 to 700 and an excellent atmosphere with none of those ‘so what’s your next trick?’ contributions that you get quite a lot in Hong Kong. I’ve met political leaders from the Governor, Pete Wilson, down to most of the mayors. I’ve also seen businessmen and do a seminar with a group of rather congratulatory Sinologists at Berkeley for our friend Nelson Polsby. The political atmosphere is pretty excitable since only last week the American electorate gave the Republicans a majority in Congress for the first time in years. Newt Gingrich is dominating the news; there is a sour populist mood in the American working (they call it middle) class, not least because living standards go on being squeezed. The trip started off with an enjoyable if rather surreal visit to Hollywood to see Mike Medavoy and his beautiful new partner, Irena. We had a lunch with Barbra Streisand which makes me wonder why the word diva is normally associated with Italian sopranos, and a dinner with a group including Gregory Peck. If I had to look like anyone else, he would be my first choice; the choice that many other blokes would make too I expect. He was also charming and interesting with mainstream Democratic opinions.

Monday 21 November

There seems to have been a gentle thaw in our relations with Beijing, but the last thing we can do is claim that things are getting any better. However, they probably are. The Chinese have been mostly positive on infrastructure coordination, but are still intent nevertheless on making trouble over the sewage scheme. The puns are obvious. They clearly think this is yet another attempt to spend all Hong Kong’s money and to give the project to British companies. In fact, so far only one contract has involved a British company and the two big contracts to come are unlikely to be won by Brits. At the same time, they obviously recognize that they are unlikely to win a public relations battle over sewage. I suspect we will also see a bit of progress on the JLG agenda, though not on any political issues. And they won’t give us any help on the Court of Final Appeal where they are being tiresome. They are in effect trying to second-guess the legal judgments of the law officers in London and the Attorney General in Hong Kong. This will not be allowed to happen, not least by the lawyers concerned.

What would the lawyers make of a case close to recidivism in the GH dog community? Soda has followed her partner’s earlier crime and nipped a labourer who was working in the house. She too has been carted off for a week in clink. Will the rules apply to dogs as well after 1997?

We are having some difficulties returning Vietnamese migrants. The government in Vietnam has just refused to take back 125 people because they were of Chinese ethnic origin. But when they are returned to us, it’s impossible to keep them locked up in a camp; we would understandably lose cases on habeas corpus grounds. This is going to affect our ability to get most of the Vietnamese home before 1997. The Chinese and the United Front in Hong Kong are stirring things up as much as they can, suggesting that any Vietnamese who are left at the time of the handover should be taken to Britain. Tell that to the Home Office! The Chinese of course discount the fact that most of the Vietnamese who got here came by way of China where they at least had a refuelling stop.

Louise is getting married to a very nice police officer in the commercial crime squad. At their engagement party, one or two of Steve’s bosses there tell me about the difficulties they are having in persuading people to give evidence in one particularly high-profile case involving Macau and Portugal, even though they have a good deal of documentary proof of wrongdoing. When we raise this case with the Portuguese they tend to look the other way or shift the conversation.

Tuesday 22 November

Opening one of the latest urban-renewal projects in Wan Chai, I got a real insight into the problems of property prices. The flats are well done but small; probably suitable for yuppies. They will apparently cost about HK$3 million. Having to make a down payment of HK$1 million and then spend about HK$20,000 a month on the mortgage payments does give an idea of what those with aspirations to purchase are going to have to face.

Later on we went to Alice’s school parents’ evening. Alice is starting to talk to her teachers about her A-level options. They all love her (quite right too) but they note that while she is really ‘A star’, without being pushed she wouldn’t mind settling for ‘A/B’. No blame attached; it’s quite a natural sentiment. We will just have to give a little push from time to time.

Thursday 24 November

At a thanksgiving lunch with the American Chamber of Commerce, a very nice crowd, I heard what is becoming an old, old story. Several people point out the dreadful problems of trying to do business in China but go on to say that they’ve more or less signed up to doing this as a sort of act of faith, believing that everything must be all right eventually and that China will somehow muddle through without the economy imploding. By and large, this is probably my position too. But the bridge between reason and acts of faith becomes ever more rickety and sometimes quite difficult to detect. There has been recently a string of cases involving Chinese companies ratting on their debts and wriggling out of contractual obligations. And so, I suspect, the story will continue.

Anson has been making some splendid speeches in London this week, saying that it is imperative that I stay until 1997 and that it is extremely unfair for British businessmen, who have passports and will leave in 1997, to be less than supportive about the rule of law and related issues. She doesn’t allow anybody to slip a piece of tissue paper between the two of us.

Saturday 26 November

We went out to the USS Kitty hawk, a huge American aircraft carrier. A spectacular day. The senior officers – Admiral Blair is commander – are very impressive and the young pilots have our stomachs turning with stories about the horrors of landing, particularly at night, with the sense that you’re dropping down a black hole with only your instruments guiding you to about 1200 feet and then simply going for it. Act of faith again I suppose. I also find the whole naval technology of catapulting planes from the deck and landing them with their trailing hooks catching at the wires which are there to halt them almost literally incredible. They were doing much the same thing in the Second World War and it’s still the method that is used. I should record that Lavender probably saved my life when we were taking off, or at least prevented me being injured. She noticed just before the plane whizzed off down the deck that I hadn’t put on my seatbelt properly and was not in the correct position to take off. She just about sorted me out but I still got quite a nasty bump from the seat in front. I am so maladroit doing anything that involves opening, shutting, clipping in, getting out. No wonder my valet had such difficulty believing that I could dress myself.

We gave a dinner for the Duke and Duchess of Kent (seventh or maybe eighth royal visitors of the year); the Duchess talks a lot about Northern Ireland and the Catholic Church.

Thursday 1 December

Lavender went with the Duchess of Kent to the paediatric ward at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Lavender had opened the play areas there three months ago. The Duchess was very good with the children, some of whom had been in hospital for all too long. Lavender agreed with the hospital administrator that she would return soon and see some of the AIDS patients. If he agrees, she wants to be photographed with Mike Sinclair, a Scottish dentist who went public about a year ago about being HIV positive and has been a tireless educator about AIDS ever since. He is now getting very weak and Lavender wants to help with the educational programme and demonstrate that nobody is going to get AIDS simply by shaking hands with someone who is suffering from it.

While Lavender was at the hospital, I was doing a degree ceremony at the Chinese University. Once again, I was overwhelmed by the sense of social revolution that you get on these occasions, with more than half the graduating students coming from public housing. Ordinary working-class families – some dads wearing a suit probably for the first time in their lives – were seeing their children graduate. It was a cheering spectacle and I hope the best for them. When you go into their homes, lots of them have a photograph on a sideboard or on top of the television of a son or daughter in a graduating cap and gown. I had a great hour or so afterwards with Anwar Ibrahim, who is now the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia and Finance Minister. He made a good speech at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club [FCC] saying that no one should use the argument about Asian values as a justification for autocracy or for setting back progress towards a representative government.

Sunday 4 December

After playing tennis with them Lavender and I had dinner with Lothar and Christina Wesemann and a group of friends, including Charles Brown (an American architect), his wife, Rosamond (an excellent painter, we’ve bought two of her paintings), and some others, including Edgar Cheng (who is married to the fourth of the Pao – shipping empire – daughters, Doreen). Edgar, who seems to be well educated and quite sophisticated, generally takes the view that cooperation is doing whatever China wants. It is not for China, he tells everyone, to make people in Hong Kong feel comfortable about the handover; all the accommodating towards a smooth transition must come from Hong Kong and its citizens. Everyone present likes Edgar and was obviously disappointed that he feels the necessity of defending Beijing over Hong Kong on just abut everything. He doesn’t seem to understand it when I say that there are some things I couldn’t possibly do, like agreeing to China’s recent demand that we should hand over all the personnel files of civil servants to Beijing, which would completely undermine the confidence of the civil service. It’s said that a benign consequence of being educated in open societies, or working in them, is that some of our values rub off on people, but I keep on seeing examples where that simply hasn’t happened.

Monday 5 December

I made a speech at an international conference on drug abuse outlining new proposals we are intending to make to step up our campaign on drugs in the city. By the standards of many other communities our figures are still low, but they are starting to rise. I’m going to call a summit next year to deal in particular with the question of public education and the role of schools in this. In the afternoon we had an investiture. These occasions still appear to be very popular with those receiving an honour and their families and friends. I wonder if the recipients will still be wearing their Orders of the British Empire after 1997. Jenny Bestfn5 organizes these events and my ADC calls out the names of those who are going to be honoured, while another honorary ADC hands me the medals on a red velvet cushion. The ADCs look very smart in their white uniforms with silver and navy tassels and epaulettes. In times past, the Governor would have worn uniform and a hat himself to conduct the ceremony.

Tuesday 6 December

There has been a last-minute hitch before we can conclude the negotiations on cross-border infrastructure. The late Chinese trick is related to ‘three legged stoolism’, that is, the attempt to ensure that there is a member of the political adviser’s office (that is, someone who works for the British government) as part of our team; in other words they don’t want it to look as though they have done a deal with a Hong Kong delegation. After a lot of ridiculous argument, we add someone to our side who is actually a Hong Kong civil servant though he works for the political adviser’s office.

Lavender and I then went to an exhibition at the Museum of Art featuring the work of Anson’s 80-year-old and very distinguished mother, Mme Fang. She is a traditionally trained Chinese painter, using lots of calligraphic strokes, and probably the most famous female artist in China for many years. All four of her sons went to Oxford or Cambridge; two daughters went to university in Hong Kong. She is clearly very forceful and strong-minded. It is not surprising that she has a daughter like Anson – indeed, Anson says that if people think that she herself is tough, they should meet her mother.

At Legco questions I’ve started to get some tough interventions on the CFA. I have bad vibes about what lies ahead on this still to be agreed proposal and subsequent legislation. No one in London and our embassy in Beijing is going to want another row with China. Lawyers in Hong Kong will want us to deliver everything that they criticized us for failing to get when the last proposal was defeated in 1991. Beijing will be difficult over both the extent of the court’s jurisdiction and the presence of foreign judges from common law jurisdiction on the court. Business will want the court to be on parade after the handover but will not lift a finger to help us secure it. Hard pounding ahead. Just to make it harder still, Lu Ping has appeared to suggest that CFA judges won’t travel through 1997. He is not going to make it any easier for me to square the lawyers in Legco and the Bar Council.

Sunday 11 December

A visit to South Korea, staying in Seoul with the ambassador, Tom Harris, and his Taiwanese wife. The weather was freezing. I saw the President, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade; two out of three were called Kim. I spoke at a business conference and had lots of other meetings with business leaders. They seem keen on both Britain and Hong Kong and we should obviously do more in their big and growing market. They are rather ambivalent about China, but their museum on the war with the North, which we visited, seems to downplay China’s role. They obviously recognize that they are moving economically into the big time. They were rather more cheerful than I expected them to be, mostly tall and good-looking. Lavender took me along to the local market, where I bought (out of the many available there) a rather good fake Rolex. It will probably stop tomorrow. Lavender bought leather jackets for the girls. Lavender was rather disappointed that we don’t have any Korean meals; since I can’t stand the smell of kimji I don’t mind this a bit. (No kimji when we ate with the Foreign Minister.) An American senator who has just visited Pyongyang tells us that when he was shown the Metro system, it was obviously a bomb shelter rather than a transport network, but to make it look more authentic, a ceremonial train was produced which arrived at the platform empty; twenty would-be passengers had been lined up on the platform to embark.

Wednesday 14–Tuesday 15 December

A remarkable three days in Japan. I was given even better access than I receive in London. It’s difficult to know the reasons for this. While some of the Sinologists in the Japanese Foreign Ministry are reluctant to do anything which will cross China, I do now have many friends in the Japanese bureaucracy and Japan is doubtless happy to send one or two messages to China in view of a recent fracas over Taiwan. The Japanese will not want Beijing to think that their views can be taken for granted. This sentiment may be enhanced by knowing perfectly well that they’re likely to get a bashing over the next year from China, given that it will be the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Hong Kong also has a very close trading and economic relationship with Japan, which sends excellent diplomats to us as consuls-general. Our friend Oritafn6 was followed by Nogami, another real star. He is rather improbably a Japanese rugby player with a ponytail and an Irish wife. And, of course, in John Boyd and his wife, Julia, we have a formidable duo in Tokyo who have worked and lived in Hong Kong and have many friends there.

At the end of the week we were given an audience with the Emperor and Empress. We went to the Imperial Palace, a modern Japanese building in spectacular grounds, and were immediately cocooned in the bureaucracy of the imperial court, being told how to begin the meeting, how to end it, how to behave and how to bow. The Emperor and his wife were completely charming, like trapped butterflies. I was sat with the Emperor and had to make the pace a bit. On the other side of the room Lavender talked to the Empress, who is obviously rather easier going. She has the face of a saint, full of courage and suffering and pity. You can’t help but get the impression that they are prisoners in this court. When the Empress was criticized in the Japanese media last year on some absurd grounds, she lost her voice for three months. Was that a breakdown or was it (as some suggest) a strike? Anyway, they leave the same impression as former Premier Miyazawa, who was one of the many senior politicians we met – the gentle, porcelain side of Japanese society and culture.

At the end of the audience (and we were under strict instructions that it was up to us to terminate the conversations, of course with great politeness), we withdrew from the large, bare, modern Japanese room and descended the stairs outside. When we got to the bottom, we turned to bow and curtsey to the Emperor and his wife. They were framed in the doorway above us, he in his double-breasted suit and she in her traditional Japanese dress. I think it will be my most abiding memory of Japan. Heaven knows what the Crown Prince’s wife will make of it when her time comes. She is a Balliol graduate and daughter of Owada, who has been the Japanese ambassador to almost everywhere and who is certainly one of the most impressive civil servants I have ever met.

While I was doing a television interview late one night, Edward chose instead to watch one of those dreadful Japanese television programmes on another channel in which people (most particularly nubile young ladies) do unspeakable things to one another, eating creepy crawlies or throwing mud. In those sorts of Japanese television programme, pain and humiliation are never far from what people laugh about. What a contrast – from lotus blossom and exquisitely presented Japanese food to sumo wrestling and popular Japanese TV. But I suppose that if I had to choose between watching an interview on television with me or one of those popular TV shows I would probably choose the latter every night of the week.

Monday 19 December

Discussing the scant pickings in the JLG recently, I start to wonder whether we don’t get anywhere because the Chinese aren’t capable of getting anywhere at the moment. Maybe, as some alleged China experts suggest, they are in a long-drawn-out slow-moving series of economic problems with political implications. Then at a routine meeting with the Commissioner of Police I expressed my concern about the number of officers who are currently being investigated by the ICAC [Independent Commission Against Corruption]. The Commissioner doesn’t seem to think that the number is exceptional, nor that this is producing a morale problem in the force.

Tuesday 20 December

Just before we start closing down for Christmas, I went out for a private ‘black spots’ visit to three temporary housing areas and to a really unpleasant housing estate in Eastern. It’s a good idea making these visits without telling anyone in advance, surprising people in their own communities, and not being surrounded by huge numbers of press. I should do it more often. It also tells me things that I should know but that officials may not be too keen on me knowing.

Thursday 22 December

Kate and Laura have come for Christmas and Matthew Parris is here to write a few pieces about Hong Kong. He used to work for me in the Conservative Research Department before going into Margaret’s private office, getting into the House of Commons and becoming a media star. We have our first turkey of the season at a Christmas lunch for our private office.

Friday 23 December

We had a talk with my FCO officials about some of the difficult questions which we will be facing in the New Year in negotiations with the Chinese. We have to discuss – which will be a nightmare – rendition (that is, the return of fugitive offenders). We will doubtless provoke Chinese outrage when we deal with the draconian emergency powers legislation which sits unused on the statute book and has been there ever since the Cultural Revolution riots. Most awkward though will be the return to legislation on the Court of Final Appeal. This has been a dark cloud hanging over us ever since I got here.

The Hong Kong government did a secret deal with China and lost the legislation based on it under huge assault from every lawyer in town and Legco. It was one of the lessons from the past which encouraged me to avoid any secret dealing over the voting method. I don’t imagine that we’ll be able to get anything agreed with China unless we are able to make some compromises. But what is important is to get an agreement before our departure, to avoid any attempt to introduce a mechanism for second-guessing it if Beijing doesn’t like its decisions, and to secure the appointment to the court of foreign judges. I imagine that the business community is likely to support us provided we avoid compromising the integrity of the system. Insofar as the necessary thumbs up from Beijing is likely to involve some sort of adjustment from the ideal, we will doubtless get a drubbing from every lawyer, and of course the Democrats have many lawyers in their ranks. And on top of all that, London and the embassy in Beijing in their new mode of operation will be second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-guessing us. It will be welcome to a New Year of fun and frivolity.

Lavender went off to the North District flower, bird, insect and fish show, and bravely put her hand into a beehive, which is more than I would do.

Friday 30 December

We had a very happy time over Christmas with the girls and a houseful of unattached youngsters. Lots to eat and drink, lots of good walks, lots of tennis. But I end the year rather fed up. It feels as though the walls are closing in. As far as international investors are concerned, the shine seems to have gone off the Chinese economy, as the Hang Seng Index is reflecting. Qian Qichen has pronounced that he is going to visit the UK, which some people see as a sign of improving relations. But you don’t have to be the Delphic Oracle to see some of our FCO friends girding up to write all the telegrams about not rocking the boat and threatening a promised improvement in the atmosphere. We will get the usual attacks because we haven’t got on better with Beijing, because we haven’t done more for human rights, and because the closer we get to 1997 the more our authority will drain away. But I must try to keep cheerful. We are still running Hong Kong. There is still plenty to do and the public are still supportive.

Monday 2–Wednesday 4 January 1995

Perhaps the background mood has helped to put me in bed for a couple of days feeling ill with a nasty bug. Just to lower morale further, Kate and Laura have gone back to London. Lavender thinks that the last year has been the most stressful so far. There is a remorselessness about China’s pursuit of its goals; the arguments go on and on. Talking to senior officials from the Hong Kong government plus the JLG team and my political advisers, we’ve concluded that the best way forward, without being provocative, is simply to do what we think is going to be best for Hong Kong wherever we can. The only way we can really warm up the relationship with Beijing is by doing whatever the CCP wants on Hong Kong, which is extremely unlikely to be in Hong Kong’s best interests. There are lots of rumours about Chinese determination to remove all department secretaries appointed by us; I don’t believe they could be so stupid. There are also rumours about Deng being near death, and the stock market is still affected by general nervousness about China and by what looks like an impending US/China trade war.

Lavender has been again to see Mike Sinclair, the dentist who has been a powerful spokesman about AIDS and HIV, trying to ensure that people know how to protect themselves and to show compassion to those who have the disease. They give a press conference together at Queen Elizabeth Hospital and have lots of photographs taken shaking hands.

Sunday 8 January

Alastair Goodlad came to see us on one of his regular parish visits, checking out the ground before Qian goes to London and Michael Heseltine to Beijing with a big party of businessmen. Alastair was accompanied by Sherard, who at dinner with my senior team worked himself up into a great state about the dangers of us going unilateral with legislation on the Court of Final Appeal, which we will have to do if there is no movement from the Chinese side. There is plainly some anxiety on the part of London officials that Douglas leaves things to me, provided I can convince him, and doesn’t listen enough to them. Since the Chinese know very well how we behave, they will play cat and mouse with us over the visits and hope that we return to our past way of doing business with them. But in Hong Kong, we are all too aware that we are going to have to legislate on the CFA come hell or high water by the summer holiday. We have to convince London that while we can delay on the bill for two or three months, we can’t do so indefinitely. Anson feels very strongly about this. It’s an issue which goes right to the heart of the government’s credibility and authority.

Alastair will pick up the growing sense of economic jitters here, mostly related to China, with which the world is rapidly falling out of love. Francis Cornish, noting the herd instinct among bankers and businessmen, suggests that people are moving on China and Hong Kong from ridiculous optimism to the reverse.

Tuesday 10 January

After a meeting with a pretty downbeat Exco – C. H. Tung is away, so there’s no one to tell us that everything will be fine come 1997 – I saw the heads of overseas offices. One surprise. Our man in Ottawa says that the relatively new Canadian government under Jean Chrétien is much less likely to be openly supportive of what we’re doing in Hong Kong than the previous one was. Brian Mulroney was extrovertly on our side. The new-ish government gives the impression of wanting to do the opposite of Mulroney on every possible occasion, and in addition seems to have a crush at the moment on China. They see – here we go again – treasures beyond human craving just over the horizon.

Alastair left on the evening plane just as David Wright (the senior FCO official responsible overall for Asia) called in en route to Beijing. His mission seems to be to lay the foundations for future meetings and visits by ministers. He is anxious to minimize any suggestion of differences between London and us. How to make me suspicious! I go the following day to Happy Valley for the Governor’s Cup. I place a few bets and don’t win a thing. Once again, I have been advised by the stewards at GH. I shall have to accuse them of trying to bankrupt me.

Thursday 12 January

Photographs have appeared of Deng taken last October looking barely alive. Presumably Beijing officials are trying to prepare the public for him not to appear at the spring festival, or perhaps not appearing again at all. Deng’s daughter more or less confirms in an interview with The New York Times that the old boy is on his last legs. The head honcho of the CIA on China makes the shrewd point, when Mao was no longer really on the scene the Chinese had difficulty in reaching an agreement about GATT trade negotiations. So perhaps at the moment there is no one around to bang heads together and to take decisions.

Friday 13 January

Beijing has begun lambasting me for not agreeing to hand over secret information about civil servants – their private human resources documents, for example – and for suggesting that it was in everyone’s interest to ensure that government had authority before as well as after 1997. They claim that the government after the handover will be an entirely different entity. Telegrams on David Wright’s visit to Beijing demonstrate that absolutely nothing has been achieved except to confirm to the Chinese that we are extremely anxious about the forthcoming visits. Len Appleyard in the embassy beats up the dangers of unilateralism on the CFA. While this is an important issue, I can’t help thinking that FCO officials have lost any sense of perspective about it.

Monday 16 January

The papers preparing the way for my meeting with Douglas Hurd and others at the end of the month more than bear this out: Sherard – or is it London officials as a whole? – has – or have – convinced themselves that the CFA is going to be a defining issue in our relationship with China. They begin from the assumption that there is the possibility of a state of genial harmony in Sino-British relations. This would be exemplified by a successful visit to London by Qian and by a good trade-boosting visit to China by Michael Heseltine. In the wake of this, so the argument seems to go, we might be able to persuade the Chinese to behave more sensibly over issues such as the right of abode for expatriates in Hong Kong. They believe that for us to go ahead on our own on the CFA would provoke a row rather like the one on the election arrangements, so we must avoid this at all costs. All the other issues that could provoke an argument, such as scrapping the draconian measures under the emergency powers legislation, queue up in the margins for a look-in. The real issue of course is whether we now settle for as quiet a life as we can get with China and whether this produces beneficial results for Hong Kong. London wants us not to commit ourselves now to going ahead with the CFA but to try to win Chinese agreement to proceeding over the next few months. Naturally, whenever we decide the time is ripe to go ahead, London officials will be against us doing so unless we have the imprimatur of the CCP. The argument is pitched in exactly this way to offer British ministers what may seem like an acceptable cop-out. But Anson and I feel very strongly that if we don’t go ahead with the CFA before the summer, this will fatally undermine the government’s credibility. More than that, it will make a mockery of all our arguments about the rule of law. We are not going to get very much from China in any event, so there is no point in simply giving in on everything. We also don’t believe that the CFA is the sort of defining argument which London is suggesting. Anson thinks they are exaggerating the importance of the Chinese reaction, but I am afraid it may be a sign of things to come in the next few months. So the week is dominated by telegrams going backwards and forwards on this issue. I end up sending a personal telegram setting out my views for the Secretary of State.

I’ve given an interview to a local Chinese newspaper in which I refer to remarks from Beijing’s Preliminary Working Committee – the advisers to Lu Ping – about handing over secret information on civil servants and on bringing the Monetary Authority under greater political control. This is not a very sensible time for them to float this idea, just as the Monetary Authority has been distinguishing itself by fighting off speculators who have been attacking the link between our currency and the US dollar.

Tuesday 17 January

We have started to get a bit more clarity (principally from well-briefed but unnamed sources) about what the Chinese actually want to know about civil servants. They are looking for details of people’s passports and of our integrity vetting. Needless to say, we won’t (and couldn’t) provide either. We destroy the integrity-vetting material once it has been established whether or not someone can be promoted, and it would be illegal for us to hand over (for instance) details about people’s nationality under the British Nationality Scheme. We have hacked out a statement in which we made clear that all archives will be handed over in 1997 and that there isn’t any question of sovereignty involved in our concern about precisely how much and what information to give the Chinese now about individual civil servants. We also agree that I should send a letter to Lu Ping, who is having dinner with Len Appleyard later in the week, suggesting that we should stop the megaphone exchanges on the civil service and try to take things forward in the JLG. The media in Hong Kong are starting to get the impression that Lu Ping’s outspoken and occasionally out-of-control performance is a result of ill-health. My own assumption is that he must be under a lot of pressure, from the political uncertainty that presumably has Beijing in its grip as Deng’s final hours or days or even weeks tick past. Given our customary ignorance of what is happening at the top of the CCP, I wouldn’t be surprised if we were in exactly the same position come the handover.

I saw Henry Keswick and Charles Powell in the afternoon. As ever, the conversation gets round to Jardine’s being driven out of Hong Kong. I don’t mind the sort of bullying tirades that one gets from Henry. I half understand his ways. He has spent his life behaving like this and he’s not going to change now. But it must be rather demeaning for intelligent Charles having to try to turn Henry’s prejudices into some sort of effective lobbying. It was an enormous relief afterwards to have a meeting with Jackie Charlton and his wife.

Monday 23 January

A big week for Whisky and Soda. Lavender has arranged for them to have their first training session with the police dog training unit. Actually, it is really an assessment to see if they were trainable. Lavender is more optimistic than I am and later says that the assessor regarded them as pretty good after only one session. On this subject I belong to the ‘ye of little faith’ brigade.

I am variously reported this week as (a) too hawkish in the FT, (b) giving up any attempt to retain authority and influence in the Independent, and (c) offering olive branches in The Times and the Daily Telegraph. These rather varying views on my approach seem to have been based on a speech on economic policy that I made to the FCC in which I mentioned the need for China to give some reassurance about the future.

Tuesday 24 January

We had a good discussion at Exco about the CFA. No one thinks the Chinese will make a really big fuss about it but that we should go ahead whether or not we have their endorsement of everything we are proposing. C. H. Tung is associated with both points of view. That will disturb the FCO. It will doubtless be regarded as an unfair last-minute attempt to destabilize the view they are trying to set up for Douglas Hurd. I will doubtless be accused of browbeating Exco’s members.

Our journey back to London was dreadful. We were not allowed to fly directly over Afghanistan and were rerouted over India. As a result of strong headwinds there, we had to put down in Munich and we were held up by snow. So I didn’t get into London until lunchtime and had to rearrange things frantically. I missed my lunch meeting with the UBS bank which I agreed to do for Tristan, who is now advising the Swiss gnomes there. I am pretty mortified. I hate missing things I’ve promised to do for friends.

Wednesday 25 January

It was only when we got to the Secretary of State’s office at the FCO after lunch that I realized just how much officials had tried to stitch things up in advance of my meetings. Fortunately, Douglas’s political adviser, Maurice Fraser (who had talked to his friend Edward Llewellyn) had been at the pre-briefing meeting with Douglas and had put our case against all comers very vigorously. It really was an attempt at a hijack and included a draft minute to the Prime Minister which none of them had told us about. Officials have convinced themselves that the only reason why everyone agrees with me in my Hong Kong team is because I have a strong personality and nobody dares disagree with me. This is pretty insulting to people like Anson. Anyway, they haven’t won what they wanted, but they are still capable of pulling the pins from under us.

Douglas had a private word with me and with Alastair before officials came in. Basically, his view is that there will be a row if we go ahead without the Chinese on the CFA, but we should nevertheless set up the court if we possibly can, having consulted the relevant Cabinet committee if necessary by correspondence. If there is going to be a big row, Cabinet colleagues will then have endorsed our strategy. This will make life a tad more awkward, not least because of Michael Heseltine’s forthcoming visit to China in May. His eyes are already starting to glint with enthusiasm. I doubt whether that will actually change anything. I imagine FCO officials will now be racing around to the DTI and trying to stir them up to make a fuss. Ditto the Treasury. Anyway, it could have been worse. It is just rather a bore not being able to trust people who are supposed to be on our side.

I had a meeting with the Prime Minister and Douglas along similar lines. Obviously John and Douglas have been told I feel very strongly about this. Foreign Office officials have ludicrously convinced themselves that I was going to threaten to resign. As a result John treats me with kid gloves. He agrees that we should go ahead and set up the CFA, but says that we need to take the Cabinet committee’s mind. He thinks that Ken Clarke and Michael Heseltine will need working on, and that there may be a fuss among right-wing members of the Cabinet. I’ve got what I wanted but it was touch and go. We will need to watch the FCO officials in London like hawks. I do a press conference in Downing Street and after that I go to a dinner at No. 10 for Sarah Hogg,fn7 who is going to write a book about the 1992 election. Brave woman.

Thursday 26 January

A full day of engagements with lots of interviews and two speeches – a lecture for Atlantic College on protectionism and a speech to the Marketing Group of Britain on China and Hong Kong. Ambassador Ma has apparently spoken to them recently and had much impressed them. Throughout my speech, I was aware that Lord Chalfontfn8 was demonstrating through lots of body language how much he disagrees with me! This is particularly embarrassing since he is sitting next to me. He is one of those people whose political rise to a modest and temporary degree of prominence is completely unfathomable. The speech seems to go down reasonably well with others. I get lots of ‘we need you back here’ comments from, for example, Maurice Saatchi, Peter Gummer, Sue Timpson and Nick Lloyd. All flattering but they don’t represent a strategy or even a tactic. After the lecture, with lots of ex-permanent secretaries in the audience, there was a question from a young man from Africa who wants to know whether it’s really worth him trying to go back to his home country to change things. A good and difficult question: I hope that my reply was more than rhetorical.

Friday 27 January

I went up to Manchester to open a new building at St Bede’s School, where my dad was educated in the 1930s, and to hold a reception for the Chinese community. I saw Laura for a couple of meals. We got back to Hong Kong on Sunday evening, in time for the Lunar New Year holiday, which we’ve spent at Fanling for a whole week, the longest amount of time we have ever been here. Lots of reading (including an excellent book on the French by Theodore Zeldin), a bit of tennis, bad golf and loads of videos.

Monday 6 February

Back to work. The NCNA owned up to the fact that they are coordinating the campaigns of pro-Beijing candidates in the forthcoming elections. Imagine the fuss if we owned up to doing the opposite, or if the British Consulate-General said that they were organizing pro-British campaigns after 1997. David Wright and Christopher Hum took Ambassador Ma out to lunch. No prizes for guessing how much butter was spread. We are still discussing pensions (exploring the option of a provident fund) and the brief for a visit by a team from our immigration department to Beijing. Meanwhile the figures on applications for foreign passports are rising steadily and we are getting worried about civil service morale.

Tuesday 7 February

I told Donald Tsang that when Hamish goes soon, I am going to ask him to take the post of Financial Secretary. He makes a moving little speech about his commitment to Hong Kong before and after 1997. Francis Cornish came in with lots of news about British firms winning business.

I’m told by one of the most generous funders of the Conservative Party that Lord Hambro – the present party treasurer – has been going around Hong Kong all week telling people that I am about to be got rid of and trying to get money out of them. I say to Edward that I simply can’t believe this; surely no one could be so stupid. He gave me an old-fashioned look.

Wednesday 8 February

We seem to be meeting more and more people who are planning to move elsewhere after 1997, and localization is picking up pace. In one area this creates particular challenges. One of my bodyguards, Tony Chow, is going off to run bomb disposal. I am pleased for his sake that we haven’t had a bomb in Hong Kong for a long time, my guess not since the Cultural Revolution riots. I like Tony and hope this state of affairs continues.

Thursday 16 February

I had one of the best meetings yet with the Business Council. We discussed among other things reclamation of the harbour; all the property developers are against too much reclamation at the moment, except of course when more roads are to be opened up and services for existing developments. But there are obviously real aesthetic problems about the harbour. You can’t go on with reclamation forever or you fetch up with a canal rather than a harbour.

Friday 17 February

We discussed in Ad Hoc the options on the CFA when the legislative process begins. Having had to argue so strongly with London for going ahead has meant that I need to be much clearer about the downside if we fail when it actually comes to legislating. We are also examining whether we can try to meet Chinese concerns about the number and type of judges who would be on the CFA, but this is very difficult because the executive doesn’t appoint judges under our system. The most important issues are whether the court can actually be set up, whether the question of what constitutes an act of state should be taken beyond what the Basic Law says (in other words should we explicitly define acts of state as simply applying to foreign affairs and defence?), and how we can best reject the monitoring of judicial decisions with Beijing able to overturn the ones it doesn’t like.

Saturday 18 February

A long meeting with the Governor of Macau, Vasco Vieira, at Fanling. The Portuguese are very concerned about what happens in Hong Kong and the impact on Macau, for which they will continue to be responsible until 1999. They obviously think that our own experience will be decisive for them. I had some very candid exchanges with the Governor, who is a thoroughly decent man. Macau is having particular civil service issues but they are also worried about Triads and organized crime. We had open day in the gardens again at GH this weekend. Alice overslept and just got away to Fanling before the crowds poured in. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to oversleep?

Monday 20 February

A new element is starting to push its way into the whole discussion about contacts between us and Beijing’s Preliminary Working Committee [PWC]. Now that we are talking about briefing the PWC on positions that we have taken in the JLG, Beijing is getting a bit ‘iffy’ about the whole thing. In other words, they don’t really want the PWC involved in anything very much; they obviously don’t have a particularly high regard for the quality of its members or their opinions, a point on which we could find a rapid consensus. They just want to use it as a way of battering away at us and our continuing authority.

Thursday 23 February

Quite a cheerful Q and A session in Legco today in which I knocked members about a bit on pensions. I noted that when our last pension scheme was debated in Legco, only one member supported it in an unqualified way. Now they are all lining up to say they are in favour of it provided it is hung about with Christmas decorations. The week is enlivened by two very good concerts held in our ballroom, one of harpsichord music and the second with the King’s Consort, James Bowman and a stunning young English soprano. Why do we have such great countertenors in Britain?

Mike Sinclair has alas died. Louise and Lavender have been to his memorial service. The music was apparently lovely and three of Mike’s friends talked about him. It came out once again that he wanted to set up an AIDS hospice. Lavender is determined to make sure that happens. Fortunately, Lavender says that her friend Sister Maureen and the Keswick foundation are moving ahead with this.

Friday 24 February

I saw the German Deputy Foreign Minister to try to persuade him to use his influence to get Anson in to see Kohl and his own boss, Kinkel, when she visits Germany. Somebody says that he couldn’t even get in to see Kohl himself so is unlikely to be able to get Anson in. In the evening we took the Husseys (who have been staying with us again) out to dinner before they went off to Australia. Coming out of the restaurant we are mobbed – not staged, so good for morale.

Sunday 26 February

I had a personal telegram from the Foreign Secretary. Michael Heseltine is clearly expressing his concern about anything which might impede the success of his visit to China. No one should be surprised. It’s now very apparent that the political cost of going ahead immediately on the CFA is too great. I will have to postpone putting a bill into Legco and find a way of doing so without destroying morale in Hong Kong, particularly among our senior officials, who have been following this saga with considerable attention. The last message we want to give is that we think that a few business deals in China (such as they may be) are worth more to us than Hong Kong’s future.

Barings Bank is going bust, which will have more repercussions in my judgement than the conclusion of a deal between America and China on intellectual property. It looks as though the Americans think they have pushed the Chinese into taking some tougher measures against intellectual piracy. Beijing is going to close down some factories where this issue has been notoriously obvious. At least, this is what is said.

Monday 27 February

Peter Lai, the new Secretary for Security, came in for a talk with Anson and me about the proposed bill on public order. The Democrats and others are pressing for the establishment of an appeal committee to consider decisions made by the Commissioner of Police about public order events. If they don’t like what he has decided they want to be able to second-guess him. I am not keen on putting the Commissioner in this position but he would probably buy it if a judge is chairman of the appeal board. But the Chief Justice is reluctant to have the judiciary pulled into yet another function like this in order to bail out the executive. We need to find a way through this mess.

Saying farewell to one of our senior expatriate officials, I learned that he is intending to do the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela when he gets home. He told me that this is for tax reasons so that he doesn’t have to stay in Britain for too long before going elsewhere for his retirement. I’m sure that St James would approve of this argument for a pilgrimage.

Wednesday 1 March

Ash Wednesday. We went to St Joseph’s for mass and to have our foreheads smeared with ash. I have given up alcohol for Lent. The priest wished me a cheerful preparation for Easter. That’ll be the day. In the afternoon I made an unpublicized visit to Castle Peak Hospital, which looks after the mentally ill. It is very grim – most of the patients are locked up with fences around the grass strips next to their wards. I must come here again before I leave Hong Kong and see what improvements have been made.

Hamish has delivered his last budget. It seems to have gone down pretty well. It’s prudent, a bit boring and there isn’t much to attack. If anything, people are criticizing us for running up too large reserves. Richard Needham phones. His boss, who likes to be known as the president of the Board of Trade, is still very concerned about whether we are going to screw up his visit to Beijing by pressing ahead with our CFA bill. I give Richard the assurance that we will try to find some way around this. I don’t seem to have much choice. Officials in London have so upped the ante that if we go ahead there will be a row, and if we don’t get the bill through either sooner or later it will look like a spectacular pratfall. If there is no agreement on the CFA by 1 July 1997, it won’t be the president of the Board of Trade who gets the blame. Moreover, we all know that on his trip to Beijing he will be given lots of face but the actual trade benefits will be negligible.

Thursday 2 March

We gave a farewell lunch for my private secretary, Bowen Leung – a really sweet-natured man who is loved by the dogs and rather more importantly by the rest of us. He is decent, full of common sense and well plugged in to Hong Kong’s gossip. He is also amusing and a very good boss of his staff. Afterwards I chaired a seminar on employment for the disabled. It’s the second one I have done and I think it is starting to prod things forward, though not without a lot of effort.

Friday 3 March

We work out our position on right of abode and emigration, look at the residence qualifications for candidates in elections, and have a good go on the CFA. I am having to start nudging people towards the very disagreeable option of doing a deal with London in which we don’t introduce the bill until late May (after Hezza’s trip to Beijing) and in return have London’s support for trying to get the bill through in this session when he has returned from Beijing, victor ludorum. My best Hong Kong officials are starting to give me rather beady-eyed looks on this. We now hope that we can get Legco support for a motion on pensions backing our latest changed proposal for a mandatory provident fund, but I’m sure there will be amendments tacked on increasing social security rates.

Saturday 4 March

Lavender whisked Alice and me off for the opening of the extension to David Tang’s new shop; it’s full of wonderful kit and we are witness to a spectacular Lion Dance which is supposed to bring luck to the opening of a new building.

Sunday 5 March

A personal telegram from Douglas arrived giving us a bit of time to try to sort out an arrangement on the CFA which will more or less satisfy us as well as Michael Heseltine. He assured me that the civil servants haven’t been ganging up on us; I guess he was bound to say this. It shows that the arrows that I have been firing have hit some sort of target, although have probably only convinced officials that we are isolated and paranoid in Hong Kong. We shall see soon enough whether we are just being humoured. I visited polling stations for the municipal council elections. There was a significant fight between the veteran Democrat Szeto Wah and Elsie Tu.

Monday 6 March

Very pleasing results in local council elections. Szeto Wah has beaten Elsie Tu handsomely. This was the contest that all the experts were looking at and the unequivocal result is definitely very positive for us. All in all, the Democrats have done pretty well and the pro-Beijing parties have done respectably enough for them not to take their bat and ball home. So another corner turned though I doubt whether we will get much credit for it. It looks as though we may soon get financial agreements on the airport and the airport railway. But there is still nothing on the CFA except Chinese warnings not to take unilateral action and the suggestion that sooner or later they’re going to ask for expert talks again.

I met the chairman of the Vietnamese National Assembly. After a lot of buttering him up with talk about trade and commerce, I came in quite hard on the importance of getting all the Vietnamese migrants back home before 1997 and in particular the allegedly non-Vietnamese migrants. He plays a straight bat (if, that is, the Vietnamese know anything at all about cricket and straight bats).

Then it’s off to Hong Kong University for a seminar on drugs. 250 people turned up. Initially there seemed to be a certain amount of cynicism as to whether the seminar would amount to anything, but the audience was surprised by our commitment and by the action programme at the end covering principally education and public health measures. The important thing now is to keep the pressure up. There will be quite a lot of foot dragging in some parts of the administration and from the outside a search for examples of us falling down on the job. But I think people do recognize that this is something both Lavender (with all her work with voluntary bodies) and I feel strongly about. It’s not a problem which you can tackle just by increasing punishments and sending in more police if you can find them, not least in an Asian city.

Tuesday 7 March

Donald Tsang’s appointment as Financial Secretary succeeding Hamish has been announced and gone down well. It must have been the worst-kept secret in Hong Kong and that is saying something. I gave a small drinks party for Donald and the other local Hong Kong civil servants whose appointments have been announced as secretaries of the main departments. We have almost transformed the senior ranks of the civil service since I arrived, but the whole process should have been started earlier. Their calibre is extremely high and I can’t think of more than one or two who wouldn’t have got to the top in any public service anywhere. It is a rather under-celebrated aspect of our colonial administration, which has been politically neutral and very well paid. The remuneration at least is something we have in common with Singapore.

Wednesday 8 March

Off to Singapore for a couple of days leaving Lavender behind. Tom Hallifax is making a few changes to the portrait he has done of us and Lavender has encouraged him to paint more portraits of the stewards. He has already done Ah Mo and Charlie, which pleased them no end, and now we hope he will paint Lavender’s maid, Janet, and Ah Chak, who is a particular friend of the dogs. My main purpose in Singapore is to take up an invitation to make a speech on the rule of law. Everybody has assumed that they will hear a response to the exceptionally unhelpful remarks that Lee Kuan Yew made shortly after our arrival in Hong Kong, and this is more or less what I am going to do, though couched in very courteous terms. When asked if I am criticizing Singapore, I say that I understand that some people think there are different values in Asia. Perhaps one of these is the feeling some people have that you can go to another person’s country and criticize it even though you’re a guest. I add that this isn’t one of my own values so I wouldn’t do this myself. When asked about disagreements with LKY, I note, ‘There are of course differences between us; for example, I have never been a member of the Socialist International.’ The High Commissioner is clearly rather nervous about what I am intending to say but he doesn’t actually protest. I admire a lot about this city state but I think I would need a lobotomy to live here.

I had lots of interviews in the afternoon and a dinner given by the High Commissioner with, among others, the Finance Minister and several other ministers and businessmen. They were extremely downbeat about China – corruption, hard landing, ruin ahead for Hong Kong et cetera et cetera. It is not exactly LKY’s tune.

Thursday 9 March

My speech after breakfast seemed to go very well. I gave a press conference afterwards. I learn from the journalists about yesterday’s Legco voting on pensions. Our proposed scheme got a comfortable majority, then Allen Lee’s lot went home, and there was another vote in favour both of our scheme and the addition of lots of increases in Social Security payments for the elderly. In other words a pretty good farce, but since we got the biggest vote for our own scheme we will go ahead with it. I had a long meeting with the Prime Minister and another with LKY’s rather charming and clearly very clever son, though he is fairly obviously not someone who is likely to suffer other people’s opinions very gladly. The words chip, old and block come to mind. After lunch with the PM at Raffles, I went for a meeting with LKY. He is amiability itself: a big smile and Chris this, Chris that. The High Commissioner thinks that LKY was on ‘receive’ more than he has ever seen him before. I gave him a full and accurate briefing on what is going on. His view is that the Chinese will bugger it all up. He doesn’t think that they are really capable of doing anything else. After we talked about possible chief executives, he said that there only seem to him to be two positions that people could take up. First they shrug their shoulders and decide to get on with China as best they can (he takes this to be the position of S. Y. Chung, who used to be in the other camp). The second option is what he describes as the existentialist position. This is the one he says he would take up himself. He couldn’t bear the prospect of working for communists so he would only do so for a price and he would set that price as high as he could. I avoid the temptation of noting that I’ve been trying to give everyone in Hong Kong a similar opportunity. But his mood is very different from my previous encounters with him. He doesn’t of course say that in view of his fears for Hong Kong’s future, it is right to try and stand up to China a bit. I suspect he would say that this is a hopeless task. As ever he is very sure of his opinions, changed though they may be today. I was told afterwards that my meeting with him went on so long that the Cabinet was kept waiting.

The FT man here says that when he and one of his editors were receiving background briefing from LKY recently, they asked him about Tiananmen. What would he have done? He said it was quite simple. He would have turned the lights out in all the main hotels. He would have kept the foreign press at bay. He would have ringed the square. And then he would have released a bit of cholera into the crowd. Once there were a few victims, he would tell their families. Panic would have set in, shifting everyone from the square very rapidly. Job done, no tanks, no killing.

Friday 10 March

Peter Lai as Secretary of Security has been in Vietnam and thinks we are starting to make a bit of progress about returns. Next week there is a conference in Geneva which he reckons has a good chance of reaching decisions about speeding them up. At a later meeting with Anson and the Chief Justice the CJ clearly supports our overall position on the CFA. He is also now prepared to accept the appointment of a judge to chair the board which may need to be set up to consider appeals against decisions made by the Police Commissioner under the Public Order Ordinance. This should help us get the bill through.

Saturday 18 March

I spent a lot of time this week in lobbying Legco members about pensions but there are a few other highlights (or at least medium lights). First an excellent meeting with the French president of the Senate foreign affairs committee, who seems sympathetic to what we are trying to do. I reminded him of the book by Alain Peyrefitte on Macartney’s mission to China in 1792 on behalf of King George III. What the Chinese used to say then, and their attitude to the world outside the Middle Kingdom, is remarkably similar to their approach today.

Second, a meeting with Jimmy Lai, the Giordano chief whose brave criticisms of Li Peng have led to retaliation against his company in China. He told me that he is going to start a newspaper which will have the aim of cheering people up and making them realize that they can affect their own destiny. He came to Hong Kong as a 12-year-old stowaway, has made a fortune here and thinks that he and others like him are walking examples of the relationships between economic success, the rule of law and political freedom. I think he is a Catholic. I tell him that I find it extremely difficult to understand what is happening in Beijing, even with all the advice I get from people who claim to know. But one thing for sure is that it is only pretence that everything is going smoothly. I think it is as though one was a Martian looking down on a yachting regatta. The boats would move this way and that. Had the race started? Was there a race at all? If there was who was in the lead? And finally who had won? I would clearly be a pretty hopeless spectator in Beijing, and indeed in Cowes.

Third, Lavender and I had a good visit to Central and Western district including spending some time at a boys’ primary school. Lavender pointed out that some of the older boys are looking both taller and plumper than the typical Cantonese. She thinks, probably correctly, that it marks a new age of affluence and the fact that Chinese children are eating more and more Western food. One of the teachers tells us that she doesn’t think they take enough exercise and spend too much time playing with their computers. Now that does sound like teenagers back home. We have had to say goodbye to Ah Ho, our senior driver, this week and had tea with him in our private quarters. He is a sweet man who has been putting his son through an American university. Heaven knows what it must have cost him and his wife.

The week ended with another telegram from Douglas Hurd about the CFA, which we are told his office toned down in its original draft by officials. The telegram asks all the usual questions about whether we will get the bill through and what the impact or row would be on British trade with China. Qian is proposing to meet Douglas at the UN for a working lunch in April. This will presumably further complicate the CFA business. We discuss China’s demands to hand over more information about civil servants. We have a wholly defensible position on this but, since it will continue to be the source of a row, presumably we will be leaned on by London sooner or later.

There have been one or two reports, for example in the Daily Telegraph, that Lord Hambro came to Hong Kong to raise money for the Conservative Party and went away empty-handed. This is a result, so the papers say, of the government’s troubles and of criticism of our Hong Kong policy. But imagine what the reactions would have been if the reverse had been happening.

Monday 20 March

We had a round-up of JLG progress. It looks as though we will start to get somewhere on immigration and nationality and we may get a satisfactory conclusion on financial services agreements for the airport and railway. We will be under lots of pressure from the Chinese on the budget, on defence lands and on civil service files. So we expect them to be very active on all the matters that interest them, and on anything that we want they will continue to drag their feet. Hamish MacLeod is rightly pleased that we have got around several difficult bends in the last few weeks. The economy has survived some doubts about its stability, largely related to external factors; his budget has gone down pretty well; and we seem to be moving from a proper pension scheme to a provident fund without too much fuss about benefit levels. It’s still only a second-best horse but we may be able to ride it to the finishing line.

Tuesday 21 March

I am fuming over an appalling white flag telegram from the Beijing embassy on the CFA which could surely not have been drafted without the imprimatur of officials in London. It is an essay in pusillanimity. We responded vigorously. Our senior Hong Kong civil servants are getting very angry about this sort of craven behaviour. They make the point that it is inevitably difficult this close to the handover to get civil servants to do the right thing for Hong Kong rather than just roll over like poodles, but far more of a problem when they feel that London and the Beijing embassy are in surrender mode.

Wednesday 22 March

I got a similar sense of London’s feebleness when I saw our man in Taiwan. He reckons that we are being much weedier about Taiwan than any of our European partners for fear of annoying China. Our trade ministers are declining to see a Taiwanese trade minister when he visits London, even though several other European ministers are prepared to have meetings with him. It will be interesting to see how much real additional business comes out of Hezza’s trip to China. In the afternoon, I wrote another ‘Letter to Hong Kong’ for Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) on the theme of the importance of people in Hong Kong believing that they can make a difference and that if they stand by the values that have created this great city it will help those values to survive. Near the end of the letter I wrote: ‘Hong Kong will change in 1997. It’s bound to change in some respects. It’s a largely Chinese city with an international outlook which the chance of history made a British colony … And come 1997 it’s a Chinese city in China albeit with its special qualities preserved and guaranteed … So when I’m asked after 1997 to write a letter to Hong Kong, still with its freedom of speech and still able to entertain every point of view, I believe that I’ll still be addressing a free, prosperous, decent society, living with the rule of law – under a Chinese flag. If the people of Hong Kong believe that, too, and want it to happen, it will. Because Hong Kong is a taste of the future not left over from the past. That is Hong Kong’s achievement; no one can take it away.’ I do not add, God willing.

Saturday 25 March

Last night, I had to go to another alcohol-free ball. Roll on the rolling back of the tombstone! Lu Ping is visiting America and trotting out reassurances about the rule of law, the CFA and so on. Some of his travelling colleagues from the PWC appear to be making mildly racist comments about colonialism. I’m surprised there isn’t more of this. Most Chinese of a certain age probably have stories of Western condescension if not worse. We’re discussing the possibility of putting down a motion on the CFA in Legco in order to smoke out positions there, but I don’t think we would get very much information from the exercise and it would probably be regarded by the Chinese as being almost as provocative as actually tabling legislation. We gave a farewell lunch for Clement in my private office, the end of the Leung dynasty. He is a fine young man and makes a very moving speech. What lovely people have worked for us here. Then we have a reception for the rugby sevens. The tournament itself is won by the New Zealand team. No surprise there. The Pope is a Catholic; New Zealand wins rugby games.

Monday 27 March

I’ve had a long chat with Nigel Rich, who went back to London for Jardine’s to run Trafalgar House for them. Not surprisingly he is finding London at the moment pretty punishing after Hong Kong. He was on his customary good form and is still very robust about this community. Lavender and I miss him and his wife, Cynthia. He told me how bad he felt when he left here and said goodbye to his driver, who had been a friend for years. He agreed that we can’t just sneak away from Hong Kong hoping to avoid any arguments with China and to pick up whatever crumbs they offer us from the table. We have to leave people in Hong Kong the chance of continuing to lead a decent life.

We had a blessedly normal evening with the Cornishes and a couple who have come relatively recently to Hong Kong, Jeremy and Angela Palmer. Jeremy has run Barings in Hong Kong and Angela has been a journalist on several of the big London papers, and is a great friend of Tim Heald, who was at college with me. They are much younger than us, interesting and fun.

Tuesday 28 March

Long discussion at Exco about the CFA. All the unofficial members, including C. H. Tung, John Gray and Raymond Chi’en, agreed that we should go ahead and try to set up the court as soon as possible. Anson spoke particularly well about it. We have telegrammed the results of the discussions in London, though I dare say that it won’t make much of a dent. The noise of the attempted stitch-up is now becoming deafening. Clearly what happens is that through the commercial counsellor the Beijing embassy get in touch with FCO officials who then spring into action to supercharge the DTI and its ministers. Sherard and Tony Galsworthy, who has written a paper for the Joint Intelligence Committee, can be depended upon to make sure that the worst possible gloss gets put on whatever we are trying to do. Sherard has produced a draft Cabinet committee paper which has allegedly been cleared already with the Foreign Secretary. I don’t believe a word of it. It would be unheard of for this to happen without us saying what we think. Much of the analysis in the paper is fine but the judgements at the end are completely loaded. Apparently, we must prepare for the end of the British Empire and any trade prospects in Asia if we go ahead with the CFA. I exaggerate, but only a bit.

There’s been an incursion into Hong Kong waters by a Chinese gunboat and the abduction of two Hong Kong boats and their crews to China. They were obviously involved in smuggling. We have taken the mildest action, which has clearly made some of our police cross and also the garrison who weren’t told what was going on. The incident wasn’t very well handled; I have tried to ensure at a meeting that the rules of engagement are got right and that in future the police recognize that they have to tell the Navy what is going on. But we are in real difficulties. The Chinese are unlikely to give back the vessels or the men. The truth is that the number of such incursions has fallen dramatically over the last few years, so the Chinese have been trying to behave better. But in this sort of rogue incident they are not likely to back off.

Wednesday 29 March

We are having discussions in Beijing over the next few days on the budget and we are keen to make it clear before they start that we make a distinction between the procedures for determining the budget in 1996 and the content of the budget in 1997. This is what the Chinese agreed last year. Now they are trying to change their tune. We refuse to cave in and won’t start the talks until this is accepted as the basis of them, a point they eventually concede with a bad grace. Meanwhile the FCO talk about ‘a gradual restoration’ of relations with China. Yet the Chinese are behaving just as badly as ever. They have discourteously turned down an invitation to have dinner during the next JLG meeting next week with Anson.

I’ve been interviewing future ADCs to take over from Mike. I choose a very tough guy called Lance Brown, who is at present running the special duties unit, our equivalent in the police service of the SAS. He is a very grown-up fellow and you would want him on your side if things ever got sticky. Lance clearly understands that my main requirement for my ADCs and bodyguards is competence and geniality, certainly not formality.

A cheerful former American diplomat, Mort Abramowitz, has given me a readout of Lu Ping’s visit to the States, which he thinks has been pretty much of a disaster. Lu comes across as a typical Chinese bureaucrat repeating over and over again that everything will be all right in Hong Kong because the Chinese will stick to the Basic Law. Mort says that hardly anyone believes this nonsense. Bob Peirce is back from a visit he has made to America at the end of the week. He doesn’t wholly agree with Mort – he doesn’t think that Lu’s visit was a complete disaster. But he plainly hasn’t reassured anyone and he came across as very wooden. How could he be expected to be anything else? Bob also feels that it’s a pity that the FCO isn’t as supportive of us as the State Department.

Friday 31 March

Margaret Thatcher has arrived in cracking form; and kept us up until 1am. In Beijing she socked it to Li Peng but was impressed by Qiao Shi. Most Westerners are, which perhaps is a problem for him. She has a good lunch with Anson and is all fired up about the CFA. She seems to me to be one of the few people who ever actually stands up to the Chinese. It must have been very alarming for Len Appleyard to have her staying in the embassy. Needless to say, he kept her in the dark about some of the nuances of what is happening and put loads of downside into her briefing.

Saturday 1 April

Lavender has gone to Mexico with Alice to see Kate, who is there as part of her Spanish course. Her presence might have helped to calm me down. It’s becoming clear that we will be pressed not only to postpone action on the CFA until after Michael’s visit to China, but also not to do anything afterwards to poison the atmosphere that will doubtless have been created by it. At some stage I am going to have to go back for a Cabinet committee meeting and perhaps even put my own position on the line. I am furious with officials for putting ministers and me in this position. As far as people like Anson and her senior colleagues are concerned, it is a clear sign that Britain puts alleged commercial interests – I stress the word ‘alleged’ – above any concern for Hong Kong.

Monday 3 April

Douglas had a 40-minute talk with me on the phone. He has had a meeting already with officials. They have taken the usual line about the CFA. He wanted to be walked through all the arguments as I saw them. Michael Heseltine is obviously being difficult. He is very flattering about me, Douglas says, but goes on to argue that I’ve got all this wrong. China trade glitters. Anyway, I go through the arguments about timing, the position in Legco and so on. Douglas is very realistic about the likelihood of any ‘gradual restoration’ of relations with China over the next couple of years or so. He doesn’t think we should expect anything other than continuing struggle diplomacy – a bleak but realistic outlook. Anyway, whatever some of his officials may be saying, he himself remains wholly supportive. He says he will speak to the Prime Minister and Ken Clarke later in the week. I don’t want to put my friends in a difficult position, or the government for that matter, but I do want to do the best for Hong Kong. I am more and more struck by what this looks like to the best people in the Hong Kong government.

Tuesday 4 April

The JLG has begun dourly. I had a discussion with Francis Cornish about whether we should offer a British gift for Hong Kong when we leave. I suggest that we could provide a work of sculpture or another sort of memorial incorporating the text of the Joint Declaration. Francis responds, with a wry smile, that this may be a bit confrontational.

Thursday 6 April

Last night I had a very nice supper with Martin and Janny Dinham, after which we went to see Pulp Fiction. It puts me in the right frame of mind for seeing Sherard this morning. He has come for the second part of the JLG meeting. He bangs on (with a straight face) about restoring the relationship between GH and the Hong Kong Department. It was of course perfectly fine when Peter Ricketts was running the department and when Robin McLaren was in Beijing. He doesn’t know whether we will need to have a Cabinet committee meeting on the CFA. It does rather depend on whether Hezza will accept the suggestion that we should postpone introducing the CFA bill for two weeks after his visit to China, which is a compromise which I suppose we could just about sell, or whether he wants a much longer postponement, which would really jeopardize the legislation and the establishment of the court.

Friday 7 April

The last day of the JLG has told us much that we need to know about ‘gradual restoration’. The Chinese have saved up the worst to the last. They tell us that they have decided which firm is going to print the SAR passport – nothing like an open tender involved here – and also announced that they want to interview senior civil servants in Beijing over the next few months. They can get stuffed. If (or when) this gets out, it will have an awful effect on civil service morale. This is one of the worst JLGs that anyone can remember.

I finished my Lenten abstinence a bit early in order to attend the wines of the Pacific Rim festival. I am sure that St Vincent, who I seem to recall is the patron saint of winemakers, will put in a good word for me. Afterwards, I had a very long sleep.

Tuesday 11 April

At a meeting held to sweep up after the JLG, we agreed that it is becoming more and more apparent that in the name of sovereignty the CCP is prepared to erode Hong Kong’s autonomy – civil servant appointments, the budget and public procurement are the best examples of this. The company they have chosen to print the SAR passports is of course Chinese owned and so far as we know has no previous experience of security printing.

The Commissioner of Police is concerned about morale and thinks that the figures for departing officers, particularly expatriates, are going to be very high. Lydia Dunn told me that Swire’s are worried that the Chinese proposal to run an airline out of Hong Kong has been a complete burial of all the assurances that the company got from Chinese leaders. I was a little cheered by a meeting with Hilary Armstrong, even though she is full of confidence as a Labour MP about politics back home. She is a nice woman who used to be John Smith’s parliamentary private secretary. She passes on the best wishes of her father, Ernest, who used to be the Deputy Speaker and brought to that office all the skills he had acquired as a headmaster. She now represents what used to be his seat in Durham. He was a lovely man and the two of them represent the best of the Labour Party and a very good reason why we should never be too bothered in Britain by the prospect of a moderate Labour government.

Thursday 13 April

Lavender and Alice have come back from Mexico. The most significant event this week is the death of Chen Yun, who was one of Deng’s closest and most important advisers. There has been lots of speculation about what is meant by the decision not to give him a public funeral. The general consensus is that there is always official nervousness about the security implications of gatherings of large numbers of people. So much of the trouble in China stems from demonstrations at funerals or in the margins of them.

Saturday 15 April

The Chinese have decided to hand over the two Hong Kong residents they picked up during their incursion into our territorial waters. The NCNA phoned up first of all to make it perfectly clear that this has nothing to do with our protest but everything to do with the Chinese legal process. But of course. Anyway, it’s a success for handling things as we did, reasonably (but not too) firmly. Beijing officials are discreetly circling Anson to find out more about her. Since she comes from such a distinguished patriotic family, with a grandfather who was a general killed by the Nationalists, an uncle who looked after Deng’s son after he was thrown out of a tall building in the Cultural Revolution, and a mother who is probably the greatest female painter from China over the last century, and who herself has a record of public service which is an open book, it is difficult to know what else they need to be sure about. We shall need to be discreet in anything we say about this to London and the Beijing embassy for very obvious reasons.

Sunday 23 April

There are four things in particular worth noting about the week after Easter. First we had a visit from Ted Heath, who comes straight from what he tells us is his 19th official visit to China. As usual, according to him there is nothing wrong with China. While here he was restrained in what he said in public about me but he made it abundantly clear in private that he thinks we should simply have spent our time in Hong Kong trying to teach China about the community. He has two very good private secretaries with him (Batey and Burn), one of whom tells us that most of his meetings with Chinese leaders consisted, as always, of mutual flattery. Len Appleyard talked him through his alternative approach on the Court of Final Appeal which Ted was inclined to raise with Lu Ping, though in the event he found Lu so slippery that he could see there wasn’t any point in pressing him on whether there would be Chinese acquiescence if there was a slower timetable on the CFA. Li Peng evidently told Ted that our policy on Hong Kong had changed in 1992, that we had come to the conclusion then that China was going to fall apart, and that we would therefore be able to hold on to Hong Kong after 1997. Yes, he really said this.

Second, the Princess of Wales came to stay, or rather she came to Hong Kong but stayed at the Mandarin. We got to do lots of charity things with her, mostly it seems organized by David Tang. She looks beautiful and smiles a lot. She is a great celebrity star. What more do I know? And what more can I say? I must ask Jonathan Dimbleby next time he is here filming. He has after all written a book about Prince Charles.

Third, we started to think about the visit which Lu Ping is planning to make here in May. It obviously makes sense for me to write to him in advance saying that even if he doesn’t see me, I hope he will have meetings with Anson Chan and some of our senior officials, just as he saw David Ford in the past. There is a political downside to this – people will say that I have finally made myself a lame duck, that the Chinese can pick and choose who they deal with, and that I am completely sidelined by Anson. There is a bit of this around at the moment anyway. But it seems to me on balance better to take the initiative in what will be seen by some at least as a reasonably statesmanlike gesture. It would be far worse to find ourselves in the position in which we are losing authority in the civil service in a rather slippery and underhand way. Our local civil servants support this line; Kerry and one or two others are less sure.

Fourth, we are still going through the tortures of the damned over the CFA. Douglas had a meeting with Michael Heseltine and the Prime Minister after the Thursday Cabinet and they are keen to see if there is any way in which we can put more time between Michael’s visit and introducing the CFA bill. Michael is asking all sorts of questions about it, as though he was actually interested in any other issue than having a trouble-free troop through China with a lot of pipedream trade announcements to make at the end. This is all pretty annoying and I may still have to go back and argue my corner in the Cabinet committee.

Richard Needham is giving me lots of his thoughts on the CFA and on how to govern Hong Kong. I know that he is trying hard to be supportive but has also to show that he is a vigorous trade minister. Just at the moment it may be rather a difficult circle to square. But after talking to a number of local businessmen, he told me with his usual robust honesty that none of them thought going ahead with the CFA would make a huge impact on British trade. Of course, his officials are saying the reverse having latched on to the stuff that FCO London officials are saying and writing. Nor is Michael Heseltine likely to change his view. He is second-guessing all our own opinions on timing. The whole situation is becoming ludicrous. The trade visit to China is being allowed to drag Hong Kong policy by the nose.

Tuesday 25 April

Continuing my campaign on drugs, I visited a gospel-based drugs rehabilitation centre in Sai Kung. It’s rather impressive, but the fact that its appeal is partly based on religion means that it isn’t getting any government subsidy. I think this is daft, a prejudice-based policy, and want to review it. The centre seems to be doing a great job. If you save abusers from drugs by changing their whole personality, what’s wrong with that?

Wednesday 26 April

I got a personal telegram from Douglas. Reading between the lines, he is saying that the Prime Minister and he will support me on the timing of the CFA if they have to and that I will probably win against Michael. But he also asks whether it’s really too difficult to put the whole thing off until October, rather longer after Michael’s visit. The whole row is putting my relationship with John and Douglas into the scales on one side, and my relationship with Anson and senior officials onto the other. I find this extremely difficult, but in the circumstances the only thing I can do is think about Hong Kong and Anson. There is to be a debate thanks to the admirable Jimmy McGregor next week in Legco on the CFA, which should give us some idea of how opinion is forming there.

Thursday 27 April

There has been a debate back home in the Commons about Hong Kong. It went well, mostly supportive with the exception of a dreadful speech from Ted Heath and another which is almost as bad from the resident Commons pseudo-Victorian, Rhodes Boyson. Robin Cook is excellent and we still have lots of cross-party support.

There have been lots more rumours this week about the death of Deng. One day soon I imagine he really will. Meanwhile the Beijing party boss has been purged so, even if the president of the all China Bridge Federation is still with us, something pretty dramatic is going on in the CCP.

Friday 28 April

I have sent a fairly robust response to Douglas pointing out why we can’t leave things until October. But I note that we can perhaps come to a final conclusion on this after the debate in Legco. We may, I suppose, be able to combine a shorter delay than Hezza has been demanding with some minor amendments to our proposed bill provided we hold on to the most important bits. Judging by the discussion of the CFA in the JLG today this may not be easy. They have started to raise some of the real Chinese objections to the court. First, they don’t like the fact that there is no remedial machinery for overturning CFA verdicts that the executive doesn’t like. If there were, that would be the rule of law Chinese style. Second, they want to be explicit about those acts of state which are excluded from the CFA’s ambit. I don’t think we can go further than referencing the Basic Law, and even that will bring down criticisms on our heads from a lot of the Hong Kong lawyers and some of Martin Lee’s Democrats. But we obviously can’t change the Basic Law now, and Martin after all was one of those who helped to draft it. Third, the CFA shouldn’t be able to pronounce on the constitutionality of laws. I imagine that if there was yet another trade visit in the offing, the DTI, Len Appleyard and a good number of FCO officials in London would urge us to accept this agenda. I wish the Chinese position was better known publicly. At least most businessmen are hanging in there, saying that we have got to get the court set up. We also have a lot of international support for this.

Hold the front pages. Deng still lives. Vivat.

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