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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Patten Wins Confidence Vote Over Hong Kong Legal Reform

HONG KONG -- Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten won a solid victory Wednesday over an unprecedented no-confidence motion accusing him of weakening the colony's legal system.


The motion was the first of its kind in 154 years of British rule in Hong Kong, and was defeated 35-17 in the colony's legislature.


It was sponsored by the Democrats, Hong Kong's largest elected party. They control one-quarter of the 60-member Legislative Council. The pro-business Liberals, some of whose 15 members are elected and some appointed, opposed the motion, along with independents and government representatives.


A separate no-confidence vote in both the British and Chinese governments also was defeated 34-5 with 17 abstentions.


Although passage of either motion would not have forced Patten's resignation, it would have dealt him a severe prestige blow.


The motion was prompted by Britain's compromise deal with China last month to equip Hong Kong with an appeals court to protect its legal system after China takes over in 1997.


The British are accused of caving in to Beijing in accepting that the court will not begin work until 1997, that only one overseas judge will be entitled to sit on its five-member panel, and that vaguely defined "acts of state'' will be beyond the court's jurisdiction.


The Democrats fear the concessions will weaken the court and make it vulnerable to Chinese pressure. The British say that had they stuck by the Democrats' demands, no court would have been established at all.


The debate focused fears about Hong Kong's post-1997 legal system: Will individual rights be safe? Will contracts be enforceable?


Patten, who did not attend the debate, had dismissed the motion as a ploy by the Democrats to score points for September's legislative election, Hong Kong's last under British rule.