Lunatics and Condemned Prisoners


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When I first started writing my daily China Bites nearly two years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined that I would get to my 400th issue without mentioning the significant contribution made to my China journey by my step-mother, Baroness Lydia Dunn. Her name and face are immediately recognisable to anyone who lived in Hong Kong in the 80s and 90s and it would be totally fair to describe her as the most influential and respected political figure in Hong Kong in the 20 years leading up to the handover in 1997.

As the democratic movement gathered momentum in the late 80s she was famously quoted as saying “apart from lunatics, condemned prisoners, and small children, Hong Kong people must be the only people in the world who seem to have no right to decide their own fate”, a call to action which led to her young step-son mobilising a group of British expatriates to lobby the UK Government to offer British passports to all Hong Kong residents (see British Passports in Hong Kong), my first and only political adventure so far.

My father married Lydia in 1988, the day after his last day as Attorney-General in Hong Kong, and this was a time when Lydia was at the absolute peak of her political career. In the years that followed I learnt so much from her about diplomacy, politics, business, China and the Chinese, most often eloquently delivered over the family lunch table where we gathered most Saturdays in Po Shan Road, and later in the Albany in Hong Kong, when she recounted tales of meetings with Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Deng Xiaoping, Zhao Ziyang and Zhu Rongji. She remains, and will always be, the person I go to for advice on most things, not just in business and politics, and she is always there for me.

Like me, Lydia celebrated an important birthday milestone this year on 29th February (being a leap year, I’ll leave you to do the maths) which like so much in 2020 was messed up by this Covid year, and so I take this opportunity to salute her for everything she stands for – integrity, grace, wisdom, style and a lifelong passion for the people of Hong Kong.


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