Former chief secretary for administration Anson Chan delivered a stunning blow to her former government colleague, Donald Tsang, when she joined the massive pro-democracy rally  >> more

Answers according to Anson

She was chatty, she was entertaining, but more importantly, she was forthright. Hong Kong's former chief secretary, Anson Chan Fang On-sang, spoke her mind - on corruption in high places on the mainland, democracy, transparency and the "valued rights and freedoms" enjoyed by Hong Kong people - as she addressed politicians, academics and world business leaders at the annual International Students' Committee (ISC) Symposium at the University of St Gallen, Switzerland, last week.

Mrs Chan, who had declined to give press interviews before the seminar on the subject "China - Political and Economic Leadership - a Challenge to Growth and Prosperity" on the basis that she was no longer in the political frontline, was candid as she balanced her fears over what could happen in Hong Kong if there was violence during any protest march on July 1 with her upbeat assessment of China's emerging position as a major player on the world stage.

It had taken three years to lure her to the annual symposium - founded, organised and run entirely by students. The forum, now in its 34th year, was founded by a small group of international undergraduates at St Gallen, about 70km east of Zurich, in 1969 as a way of fostering dialogue between the generations and promoting rational debate following the student protests in Europe in 1967 and 1968, with the first forum taking place in 1970.

ICS student team leader Alexander Pfannenberg, 21, a business administration undergraduate and the committee's "ambassador" to Hong Kong and China this year, said Mrs Chan was too busy to attend the first year he approached her and that Sars had prevented her from appearing last year.

He considered it something of a coup to get her and the mainland's Vice-Minister for Education, Wu Qidi, to speak. Twenty students from the mainland and four from Hong Kong - three from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and one from the University of Hong Kong - also attended.

Speakers had made references in keynote speeches to China's accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and emergence as major economic power, as symposium moderator Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach, vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs International, summed up when he introduced Dr Wu to delegates.

"In every session we've had so far, every speaker has referred to China. It has been at the back of all our minds and as people think today of global policy, China is there as a must," he said. It was with a sense of anticipation, therefore, that a capacity audience in one of the seminar rooms on the fringe of the symposium waited to hear what Mrs Chan had to say.

Softly spoken, she was relaxed and informal as she addressed about 70 key decision-makers. One of the biggest challenges to growth and prosperity, she said, was "endemic corruption" - institutionalised under-the-counter payments and connections - which she differentiated from the simpler and more personal "one-on-one" kind, and said it would require determination to get rid of.

"You will need a good deal of political will to tackle corruption at the highest level because of the vested interests involved," she said. "You require the rule of law, rather than the rule of man. You need a good, clean civil service if the rights and freedoms of civil society that allow a person to make choices are to be protected."

Mrs Chan contrasted the culture of corruption prevalent on the mainland with the rule of law in Hong Kong and said, in answer to a question about the differences between the SAR and Shanghai, that although Shanghai had advantages, Hong Kong held the moral and legal high ground.

"Shanghai may have good physical infrastructure but Hong Kong has the rule of law, an independent judiciary and a clean civil service. Provided we stay ahead of the game I see a continued role for Hong Kong."

She said part of the problem with beating corruption on the mainland was low pay, and stressed that Hong Kong had managed to combat it by raising the educational standards of the police as well as "considerably increasing their salaries". While wages were low there was an incentive for people to take corrupt payments to make ends meet. High unemployment as a result of the move towards a free economy compounded the problem.

"The difficulty in a country where there is endemic corruption is to find people who understand its evil," she said. "You need honesty, a sense of public service and integrity." If you wanted a driving licence in Hong Kong, she explained by way of example, you knew you could get one if you met certain criteria. This contrasted with countries where you could buy one under the counter.

Mrs Chan said Hong Kong people were justifiably proud of their rights and freedoms. "Hong Kong progression has been at a very different pace to that of the mainland, largely due to two legacies of British rule: rule of law and an efficient civil service. We value our rights and freedoms and I hope Hong Kong people will continue to feel it is alright to stand up for them," she said.

She also described Hong Kong as "good place to experiment" with democracy and said it was a place where it "could succeed". But she stressed that there needed to be more dialogue between Hong Kong and Beijing. "There must be trust, a willingness to discuss different points of view," she said.

"Hopefully we can persuade the central government of the need for full democracy in Hong Kong ... but we must also strike a consensus in Hong Kong as to the pace of change."

Answering a question on "how much [protest] mainland leaders could take", she warned there was an element of uncertainty because they did not always act in their long-term interests. "Your question raises a disturbing point," she said. "Everybody expects a demonstration on July 1. I don't think as many people will turn up as last year.

"But I'm not sure that it will be as peaceful because of the changes and developments, and I'm not certain what could happen if it did turn violent. The central government does not always do what is in its long-term interest. So I hope sincerely that it will be carried out in Hong Kong's normal sensible manner. I hope it will be peaceful for all our sakes."

Mrs Chan said she doubted that western-style democracy was necessarily the right answer for the mainland. "In a vast country like China with so many disparities, I feel full democracy there in the western sense is a luxury, but component parts are important."

She gave the right to worship and the ability of individuals to make free choices, unhindered by threats or corruption, as examples. "I don't think it is beyond ingenuity for China to come up with a democratic model with Chinese characteristics that is accepted by the international community."

Mrs Chan was hopeful that mainland institutions would gradually become more transparent as a result of the accession to the WTO and the move towards free enterprise. "As the country continues to grow and prosper and people see a raising of standards, they will naturally demand a better say, more participation. I think there could be pressure for change," she said.

"That isn't to say that there has not already been political development. There are more non-governmental organisations, more consumer rights groups, more elections at party level. The country is also embracing private entrepreneurs and there are also more professional lawyers.

"There were about 3,000 in the 1980s, the latest figures show there to be around 20,000," she said. And she raised a laugh among delegates when she added: "Mind you, that's not an unmitigated blessing, although they do have a role to play.

"I have no doubt that China will increasingly play by the rules of the international community," she added. "Not just with open trade, but also where human rights and dignity are concerned."

Mrs Chan said the present central government leadership, many of whom had been through the Cultural Revolution, were "setting the right tone". "Anybody who has been through the Cultural Revolution must have come away with a sense of disillusionment. This generation of leadership may be more pragmatic and place more emphasis on the poorer parts of China, such as the west, rather than the inner cities," she said.

"I'm not suggesting that you will see radical change, but they will want to be listening to the people and meeting their aspirations, at least in part. The leadership has set the tone, such as visiting Aids centres. I think that augurs well for the development of the Chinese people," she said.

Sars had been a salutary lesson and "good wake-up call" for Hong Kong and the mainland. "It was an example of how a lack of transparency can have devastating consequences. We were even told it was a secret when we first asked. Every experience is a learning curve," she said. - by Steve Cray       South China Morning Post       20 May 2004

Top royal honour for Anson

Former Chief Secretary for Administration Anson Chan has been honoured by Britain's Queen Elizabeth for her 34 years of service in Hong Kong before 1997 when the territory reverted to Chinese rule.

She becomes the first Hong Kong citizen to be awarded an honorary Dame Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George.

The honour is usually given to retired governors or British subjects who have rendered important services abroad or in the Commonwealth. It will allow Chan to use the initials GCMG after her name, but not the title ``Dame''.

Another famous recipient is former US president Ronald Reagan who was awarded a Knight Grand Cross.

Chan, 62, is the second woman in Hong Kong to be granted high honour by the Queen.

Lydia Dunn, former senior member of the Legislative and Executive Councils, was made a dame in 1989 and a baroness in 1990.

Chan said last night she was ``delighted and honoured''.

``I understand that only retired governors are bestowed this honour. But as a Chinese citizen and having served the Hong Kong Government for 40 years, the award is a recognition of my achievements before the handover and I am very gratified.''

Chan, 62, was appointed Chief Secretary in 1993, a post which she held until last year. Sir James Hodge, the British Consul-General, will present the award in Hong Kong.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw welcomed the honour. ``I warmly congratulate Anson Chan on this award. Her distinguished service and her enormous contribution to public life in Hong Kong mean she fully deserves such an honour,'' he said in a statement.

Chan also announced yesterday she had been appointed a director of the Founders Share Company that ensures the independence and integrity of the Reuters news service. It is her first appointment after leaving the civil service.

Chan said she had accepted the position without any remuneration.   - Michael Ng      Hong Kong Standard     7 Nov 2002  

As Chief Secretary for Administration of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, Mrs Anson Chan is principal adviser to the Chief Executive and heads the 190,000-strong civil service in Hong Kong.

She was appointed Chief Secretary of the Hong Kong Government in November 1993, the first Chinese and the first woman to hold the position after 150 years of British incumbents.

The Chief Secretary for Administration ranks second to the Chief Executive, and Mrs Chan advises him on matters of policy, deputises for him during his absence and is responsible for the effective implementation of the full range of Government policies. She is the Senior Official Member of the Executive Council, the highest policy-making body in Hong Kong.

Mrs Chan is a career public servant. She joined the Hong Kong Government as an Administrative Officer in 1962. She has held many senior positions in the Administration dealing with finance, the economy, commerce, industry and social services. She has been Director of Social Welfare and Secretary for the Civil Service.

Mrs Chan was Secretary for Economic Services between 1987 and 1993, a Cabinet-level post which gave her responsibilities for overseeing the development of Hong Kong's physical infrastructure, including ambitious port and airport facilities, the liberalisation of Hong Kong's telecommunications market, tourism, energy, food supplies and the monitoring of public utility companies.

Mrs Chan was born in Shanghai in 1940. She moved with her family in 1948 to Hong Kong, where she received her education. She graduated from the University of Hong Kong with a BA(Hons) in English and English Literature.

Mrs Chan was made an official Justice of the Peace (JP) in 1975 and a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1992 and was awarded the Grand Bauhinia Medal (GBM) in 1999. She holds honorary degrees from Tufts University, the University of Hong Kong, the University of Liverpool and the Open University of Hong Kong. She was conferred the title of Honorary Professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 1997 and title of Honorary Fellow by the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London in 2000.

Mrs Chan is married to Mr Archibald Chan Tai Wing, a Consultant of Caltex Oil (HK) Limited. They have a daughter, a son and three grandchildren.        -source: Government of Hong Kong

Keep up the fight, says Anson Chan

Former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang yesterday urged the public 'not to give up' in the fight for democracy, and said the national legislature's decision to rule out early universal suffrage had undermined confidence in Hong Kong's autonomy.

Her remarks came as politicians, academics and leading lawyers said they would continue to seek direct election of the chief executive in 2007 and all legislators in 2008. Some said they would not consider government proposals for anything less.

Mrs Chan said the public 'should continue to express [its] views in a rational and peaceful manner' and engage in 'constructive dialogue' with Beijing. The Hong Kong government should act to restore confidence, she added, and 'start considering how to consult the public in a sincere manner' about the arrangements for the 2007 election.

Members of the Article 45 Concern Group - a group of leading barristers understood to be on better terms with Beijing than their colleagues in the pro-democracy camp - said the fight for democracy should be conducted on the streets and in the September Legco election.

Two members, Ronnie Tong Ka-wah and Alan Leong Kah-kit, said the public should take to the streets on July 1 to press their demands.

Fellow group member Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee said it would listen to government proposals on reform, but would not itself propose anything short of universal suffrage.

The Democratic Development Network said it would snub government consultations on constitutional reform. Its chairman, the Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, said it was meaningless to talk to a government that twisted public opinion. Saying Beijing had buried the possibility of early universal suffrage, he added: 'I don't know what can be done inside a coffin.'   - by   Ambrose Leung and Louisa Yan   South China Morning Post      29 April 2004

Christine Fang Meng-sang (pictured), chief executive of the Hong Kong Council of Social Services     source:  SCMP photo

Anson Chan backs her cousin's bid for Legco

The cousin of former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang yesterday announced her bid for September's Legislative Council elections, saying she would push for early universal suffrage.

Christine Fang Meng-sang (pictured), chief executive of the Hong Kong Council of Social Services, will run for the social welfare functional constituency. Mrs Chan yesterday openly backed her cousin's bid for election.

"Legco should have more people like Christine, who is not biased and speaks her mind,'' she said. Mrs Chan believed mainland officials also hoped to communicate more with local people, especially those running for Legco.

Ms Fang kicked off her campaign by criticising tycoons who have warned against turning Hong Kong into a welfare state.

Ms Fang said she was in favour of dialogue on reform and supported universal suffrage "as early as possible''.

She is seen as a strong contender in the constituency after the Democratic Party's Law Chi-kwong decided not to seek re-election. She criticised Beijing for suppressing people's desire for universal suffrage but said she had regular contact with mainland officials. - by Jimmy Cheung      South China Morning Post      10 May 2004


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