Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech, made after Chris Patten’s speech, in Hong Kong on Sunday 3rd March 1996.
Mr. Governor, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Chris said, in an understatement that I have known so well over many years, that it had sometimes been a dull time. It has been a dull week. I have been working up to this evening and I am glad to be here but the last time Chris and I spoke together he referred to just a moment or so ago. We spoke side by side of course politically on many occasions but that time in Huntingdon he referred to I think was probably from memory the first time that we spoke side by side on the same day at the same meeting with the same intent and as Chris generously indicated, on that occasion I became the candidate for Huntingdon and he didn't and I was a little surprised by this latterly and I asked, after this great event, of my former selection committee when they became my executive committee prior to the 1979 election; and said: “I am very pleased to be your candidate but why did you choose me and not Chris Patten?” and they said: “Well, Chris Patten was so good we thought he’d get a seat anywhere!” [laughter and applause] -
I might just tell you perhaps a little -
I have visited Hong Kong a few times over the years since I first came here to carry out a bank inspection at Standard Chartered Bank where I was less well received than I have been on this occasion [laughter]. As Chris said, I plan to make a speech tomorrow that I hope will contain one or two things of interest to the present company and other people in Hong Kong. This evening it is late and after dinner so let me just say a few things to you.
Hong Kong by any reckoning is one of the greatest cities in the world, it is a city moving despite all the challenges into its prime, that prime lies ahead of it, not behind -
Whenever I come to Hong Kong, I am struck essentially by three things by how much have achieved since I was last here; I saw this afternoon the Tsing Ma Bridge and the new airport, an astonishing series of changes since I signed the Memorandum of Understanding just four or so years ago; I sometimes think Hong Kong is the only city where you can change the skyline over the weekend and no-
I don't come here from the other side of the world to doubt the difficulties and the challenges that Hong Kong faces in 1997, I don’t do that for a second. It is a difficult enterprise that you and we are engaged in, difficult for Britain, difficult for China but difficult above all for Hong Kong. It was always going to be difficult but I see no reason to be daunted by those challenges.
In the last 50 years or so, Hong Kong has achieved a huge amount often against the odds; providing current uncertainties are resolved with pragmatic good sense, those achievements will roll on. I am myself confident about Hong Kong’s future because I believe that the nature of Hong Kong is the future, it represents the values of the future of Asia, economic liberty and freedom, openness, tolerance and decency. Those values can't be defeated and they can't be turned back and if I saw one thing above all else when I attend the Asia/Europe summit over the last few days in Bangkok, I saw the extent to which the eyes of some of the Europeans began to open as they saw the reality of what was actually happening in Asia not just in one centre or another -
Let me return, if I may for a moment, to Hong Kong and let me say this to you tonight, to the people who in many ways are the epitomy of what Hong Kong is, the people who in public service or in business or in politics are the driving forces of what Hong Kong presents to the world and what it is for itself and its own citizens; let me say this both to you and to the future sovereign power:
The United Kingdom takes -
Whatever our differences have been over the years -
There were issues upon which we did not agree, some of them were important issues. We did not agree on the Bill of Rights, we did not agree upon the future of LEGCO and these are not issues that we are putting in the back of the cupboard, not issues that we put to one side to forget, not issues -
For our part, I believe that we have sought and we have managed the responsibilities bequeathed by history competently and decently and we will continue to do so not only until 30 June next year but also, so far as our powers allow and so far as our instincts will take us -
Much of the history of the next century may be made here, made in China, made in this region, made in Hong Kong. The meeting in Thailand was a striking acknowledgement of that fact and that is why after last week’ s summit I believe that Hong Kong must be fully involved directly in follow-
Chris said that it is possible -
If I could say one thing to the people of Hong Kong, one thing that I would hope they would take and capture in their hearts for the future, it would simply be this:
Look at yourselves and what you have achieved in the years that have gone past. I can find, wherever I look around the world, no comparative measure of success, no comparative improvement from a barren rock to the economic giant that exists today. That could not have been done without remarkable effort by remarkable people.
If you look back on what has been achieved in the past then I believe you will have a greater reason to be confident about what can be achieved in the future and as you face that future up until next year and beyond, you will not, I promise you, face it alone and I look forward to coming back not just myself, not just this British prime minister but successive British prime ministers and British ministers visiting Hong Kong on many occasions in the future. The best of Hong Kong lies ahead, of that I am certain and if we can persuade the people of Hong Kong that that is the case then the success of that future becomes even more certain.
Thank you for having me here this evening, I am delighted to have been here and I look forward to some of the things I have to say to you tomorrow lunchtime [applause].