Percy Cradock bigraphy, stories - British diplomat

Percy Cradock : biography

26 October 1923 - 22 January 2010

Sir Percy Cradock, GCMG ( 26 October 1923 – 22 January 2010) was a British diplomat, civil servant and sinologist who served as British Ambassador to the People's Republic of China from 1978 to 1983, playing a significant role in the Sino-British negotiations which led up to the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984.

Joining the Foreign Office in 1954, Cradock served primarily in Asia and was posted to the British charge d'affaires office in Peking (now Beijing) at the outset of the Cultural Revolution in 1966. He, along with other British subjects, was manhandled by the Red Guards and the mobs when the office was set on fire on 22 August 1967. After the rioting, Cradock served as charge d'affaires in Peking from 1968 to 1969, and later succeeded Sir Edward Youde as British Ambassador to the People's Republic of China in 1978. His ambassadorship witnessed the start of the Sino-British negotiations in 1982, which subsequently resulted in the Joint Declaration in 1984, an agreement deciding the future of the sovereignty of Hong Kong after 1997. However, the move of Cradock, who was the British chief negotiator in the negotiations, to compromise with the Chinese authority was regarded as a major retreat by the general media in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom, and was heavily criticized at that time as betraying the people of Hong Kong.

Cradock remained a trusted advisor to then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who appointed him as Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee in 1985. After the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, he was the first senior British official to pay a visit to the Chinese leadership in the hope of maintaining the much criticised Joint Declaration. He was successful in fighting to guarantee in the Basic Law of Hong Kong that half of the seats of the Legislative Council would be directly elected by 2007. However, Cradock worsened his relationship with Thatcher's successor, John Major, by forcing him to visit China in 1991 after the row between the two countries over the Airport Core Programme of Hong Kong. Major had enough of the compromising attitude of Cradock and then Governor of Hong Kong, Sir David Wilson, and finally decided to have both of them replaced in 1992, choosing instead his Conservative-ally Chris Patten as Governor.

Unlike his predecessors, Patten was strongly criticized by the Chinese authority during his governorship because he introduced a series of democratic reforms without consulting them. Although Cradock had retired, he joined the pro-Beijing camp and became one of the most prominent critics of Governor Patten, censuring him for wrecking the hand-over agreement that was blessed by the Chinese government. Cradock and Patten blamed each other publicly a number of times in the final years of Hong Kong under British-rule. He once famously denounced Patten as an "incredible shrinking Governor", while Patten mocked him openly, in another occasion, as a "dyspeptic retired ambassador" suffering from "Craddockitis".

Cradock spent his later years in writing a number of books on realpolitik diplomacy and was a non-executive director of the South China Morning Post.


Personal life

Cradock married Birthe Marie Dyrlund, a staffer of the Foreign Office in 1953. There was no issue from the marriage. Cradock was a member of the Reform Club.

colspan="2" style="background: #CFCFCF; text-align: center" Experience
  • Served at Foreign Office, London(1954–1957)
  • First Secretary, Kuala Lumpur(1957–1961)
  • Seconded to Hong Kong(1961–1962)
  • Chinese Secretary, Peking(1962–1963)
  • Served at Foreign Office, London(1963–1966)
  • Counsellor and Head of Chancery, Peking(1966–1968)
  • Charge d'affaires, Peking(1968–1969)
  • Head of Planning Staff, Foreign Office(1969–1971)
  • Under-Secretary and Head of Assessments Staff, Cabinet Office(1971–1975)
  • Ambassador to German Democratic Republic(1976–1978)
  • Leader, UK Delegn to Comprehensive Test Ban Discussions at Geneva(1977–1978)
  • Ambassador to the People's Republic of China(1978–1983)
  • Leader of UK team in negotiations over Hong Kong(1982–1983)
  • Deputy Under-Secretary of State, Foreign Office(1984)
  • Foreign Affairs Advisor to the Prime Minister(1984–1992)
  • Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee(1985–1992)
  • Non-executive Director, South China Morning Post(1996–2000)
Living octopus

Living octopus

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