Former acting governor: HK my favorite city

By Du Wenjuan (
Updated: 2007-06-18 09:08

Sir David Akers-Jones, 80, a former acting governor of Hong Kong, but also a big fan of the city, said he was pleased to see prosperity in the former British enclave over the past 10 years since its return to China. "I love Hong Kong. I will not go back to Britain," he told the Guangzhou Daily in an interview on Wednesday.

All about Hong Kong

It is the 10th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland, and it's also marks 50 years since Akers-Jones came to live in there.

"Things did not come to a grinding halt in 1997," Akers-Jones said. "People live well and its economy did not collapse as some people predicted at that time."

He says the biggest stumbling block during negotiations between the two governments in 1984 was Britain's unwillingness to give up rule over Hong Kong. He also expressed his approval of the final agreement of the two governments. "The current Hong Kong government supports people's social welfare. Basic assistance is given to people in medical care, housing and education. The policies are all good."

When asked how he feels about freedom of speech after the return of Hong Kong to China, Akers-Jones says Hong Kongers enjoy extensive freedom.

"Freedom of speech, religion, association and so on is all guaranteed by law. And you can see there are some changes in people's way of living and thinking," he explains. "It's great, I think. People express their feelings freely and there are criticisms of the government, of the officials and on me. Many Hong Kong people say the city is becoming more 'political'. More and more people are starting to care about their own rights."

But he thought the changes in Hong Kong since 1978 are not as dramatic as those on the Mainland. "Hong Kong is more and more localized, while the Mainland is more internationalized. It's a pity that Hong Kong is losing its international flavor."

Commenting on Hong Kong's development over the past 10 years, Akers-Jones divides the period into two. He said in the first five years since 1997, Hong Kong's economy faced a difficult situation. And in 2003, it experienced the SARS epidemic. "It was really difficult at that time. But in the second period of time, the economy turned upwards and everything became better. However, the gap between the rich and the poor remains a great challenge."

He also quoted a saying from Lao-tzu: "Governing a nation is like frying small fish," and pointed out that Hong Kong's political system needs to develop step-by-step. He thinks the time is not quite ripe for Hong Kong people to have general elections.

In Love with Hong Kong

Since Akers-Jones came to Hong Kong in 1957, he has been living in the city for half a century. Even after he retired, he still decided to live there with his wife.

In 1993, Akers-Jones was appointed as an advisor on Hong Kong Issues to China. His term ended in 1997 when Hong Kong was transferred back to China. His acceptance of this appointment caused considerable dismay among many British people in Hong Kong, but he felt no regret or apprehension about the decision when asked whether he was pressured by the British government at that time not to take the post.

"It's not about siding with China, but rather facing the reality," he continued. "Hong Kong is a part of China. I think in the 1980s, the agreement between the Chinese and British governments served Hong Kong well and maintained its lifestyle here, so I took the appointment."

Though some criticized by him, Akers-Jones still stood by Hong Kong and didn't change his position. "My position is Hong Kong," he said.

He told the reporter that he likes a Chinese poem, with one of its lines saying: "To leave one's hometown young and small, to return old and grown/ My childhood dialect never changed, the hair on my temples did." But he will not return to his hometown and instead continue to live in Hong Kong.

Views and Hopes

"I hope, those debates about reforming Hong Kong's political institution will end. And I also hope Hong Kong can maintain its international flavor," when asked about the city's development in the next 10 years.

A famous phrase during China's reform and opening up says: "Feeling the stones to cross the river," best describes Akers-Jones's view about what to do next. He used "feeling the stones" as the title of his recently published memoirs and expressed his thoughts on the future of Hong Kong and himself. "We should tread carefully when it comes to Hong Kong issues," he said.

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