A Facebook post on August 15 claimed that Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong under British rule, visited the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague and applied for Hong Kong’s “return” to the United Kingdom.
The post was shared by many users including Elmer Yuen, a Hong Kong entrepreneur and pro-democracy activist with more than 64,000 Twitter followers.
His tweet gained more than 13,000 likes and 5,000 retweets. The topic also became a popular thread on the Hong Kong online forum LIHKG, amassing more than 2,600 likes.
The claim is false. Although he mentioned the ICJ in a public conference about Hong Kong recently, Chris Patten has never said he would go to the Hague or demand that the U.K. reclaim Hong Kong.
Patten attended a virtual meeting organized by the Council on Foreign Relations on Aug. 12, titled “Hong Kong Update — Autonomy and National Security.”
When asked by an audience member whether “the United Kingdom, as the cosignatory with China of the agreement of Hong Kong, has any cause of action against China in the International Court of Justice,” Patten said he “wasn’t sure what the British government is able to do in the ICJ about the breach of the Joint Declaration but it is certainly in a position to raise the issue at the UN.”
He went on to say he hopes that if the British government “got the chance of raising it with the ICJ, it will” but also said making complaints about China in the ICJ “wouldn’t make much difference to the way China is behaving.”
Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily reported on the online meeting on Aug. 14 with the headline “Patten suggests filing a complaint against the Communist Party of China in the International Court of Justice” in Chinese.
The article mistakenly said Patten believes a complaint should be filed in the ICJ against Beijing for breaching the “One Country Two Systems” clause in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, but this appears to be a distortion of his comments.
Annie Lab has also examined other news sources but found no evidence of Patten making any similar claims.
The list of pending cases in the ICJ website does not show an application from Patten against the Chinese government either.