Hong Kong’s last governor Chris Patten has become the latest apparent convert to the “umbrella movement” in support of the pro-democracy protests.
Now chancellor of the University of Oxford, the man known affectionately during his time in Hong Kong as “Fei Pang” or “Fatty Patten” because of his love of custard tarts spoke on Friday at the Oxford Union debating society and was offered an umbrella by a participant.
“I can finally be photographed holding an umbrella just like President Xi Jinping ,” Patten reportedly said, according to a tweet by Oxford China Forum. The forum is a student platform facilitating discussion of China issues.
He was referring to a photograph of Xi with an umbrella during his trip to Wuhan , Hubei province, in July last year. The photo, taken by Xinhua, was recognised in the National News Awards last month.
Coinciding as it did with the “umbrella movement”, the photo went viral along with numerous parodies created by protesters.
The forum further tweeted that Patten was “really impressed by the dignity, decency and seriousness of the protesters” and said “their mums and dads should be very proud”.
“If you were Xi Jinping, would you want to turn off a whole generation of youth from China’s most successful city?” It quoted Patten as saying.
In an opinion piece published last month, Patten called upon the Hong Kong government to give a new report to authorities in Beijing concerning changes in the legislature, and the composition and voting rules of the nominating committee for the 2017 chief executive election.
On another front in the battle of symbols, the government removed two huge banners reading, “I want genuine universal suffrage” hung on local hilltops.
One banner was spotted at the observatory station on Tai Mo Shan in the New Territories yesterday morning, but was removed within hours.
The removal of another that had been placed atop Kowloon Peak on Friday was a larger, three-hour operation for which eight members of the Fire Services Department’s high-angle rescue team were mobilised along with five members of the Civil Aid Service, who flew to the hilltop in a helicopter.
Joseph Leung Wai-hung, deputy chief fire officer of the Fire Services Department, said the operation had nothing to do with politics. “We remove it due to public safety concerns,” he said. “It does not matter what words are on the banner.”