Saturday, October 11, 2008

Anson Chan

Anson Maria Elizabeth Chan Fang On Sang was a member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong for Hong Kong Island, succeeding the late legislator Ma Lik. Before running for LegCo, she served as the head of Hong Kong's before and after the territory's handover to the People's Republic of China from colonial rule. She was the first woman and the first to hold the second-highest governmental position in Hong Kong.

Since November 2005 she has indentified herself with the pro-democracy camp, and won the for the Hong Kong Island seat in the Legislative Council, as an independent.


Born one of twins in Shanghai, China, Anson Chan was educated at Hong Kong's Sacred Heart Canossian College and the University of Hong Kong. She was further educated at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.

Chan's father, who was a textile manufacturer, moved the family to Hong Kong in 1948. Her mother Fang Zhaoling is a well-known painter. Her grandfather, Fang Zhenwu, was a Kuomintang general who fought against the . Her uncle, Sir Harry Fang, is a well-known orthopaedic surgeon in Hong Kong who was named "International Man of the Year" for his work with handicapped children around the world.

In 1950, Chan's father died aged 36, leaving her mother with eight young children. With the support of Chan's grandmother, her mother not only shouldered the responsibility of raising her children, but also tried to pursue her career as an artist. She took two of her sons to study in England, leaving Chan and her five other siblings in Hong Kong with their grandmother and uncle.

Under her grandmother's strict discipline and high expectations, Chan learned that she had a duty towards the family and the community and was expected to be upright, diligent and righteous. She earned her pocket money by working as a private tutor and spent a year as a clerk at Queen Mary Hospital. In 1959, Chan entered the University of Hong Kong to study English literature.. An investigation by Unofficial members of the Executive Council found that Chan had "acted within the law" in respect of her extreme powers, but recommended changes to the law and to the Social Welfare Department's procedures to prevent re-occurrence of similar cases.

From 1987 to 1993, she was Secretary for Economic Services, becoming the 30th and last in 1993. She mainly oversaw the localisation of the civil service during her time in this position.

Chan was the first woman and the first to hold the second-highest governmental position in Hong Kong. The highest governmental position, the Governor, was always held by before Hong Kong's handover to People's Republic of China.

Chan was often described during this era as an "Iron Lady", with "an iron fist in a velvet glove". Chan was lauded as the most powerful woman in Asia for her role as the deputy of Governor Chris Patten, and later Tung Chee-hwa.

SAR administration career

After Hong Kong's handover to China on 1 July 1997, Chan stayed on as head of the civil service under then Tung Chee-hwa. Chan's public utterances on certain matters have sometimes placed her at odds with Tung, but this also earned her the reputation of being "Hong Kong's Conscience". In contrast to the more conservative Tung, Chan has been more forthcoming with supporting democracy and freedom, and faster pace of democratisation.

Defense of press freedom

:When pro-government figures in Hong Kong attacked the for being too critical of the Hong Kong and Chinese governments, Chan flew to its defence. In the summer of 1999 RTHK became a platform for Taiwan-Mainland China discussions. A local member of the PRC's National People's Congress, Tsang Hin-chi, urged the government-owned radio station to exercise self-censorship and not to provide a platform that express the splitting of China; Xu Simin, a member of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, urged RTHK to not allow Taiwan's president broadcasts. Chan spoke in a four hour speech after Wang on the importance of press freedom and publication, as she believed in genuine press freedom without external pressures.

Chan agreed in 1999 to delay her retirement until June 2002. However, Chan announced her resignation in January 2001, and officially stepped down in April of the same year. and has since participated in subsequent marches for universal suffrage.

In July 2006, she criticised the Commission on Strategic Development, chaired by Donald Tsang, for being "rather slow and unsatisfactory", and announced her intention to start a "Core Group" to push for taking forward the debate on Hong Kong’s constitutional reforms. It was later announced that the group would consist of:

* Allen Lee, former chairman
* Christine Loh, Convenor of the Civic Exchange
* Elizabeth Bosher
* Professor Johannes Chan
* Chandran Nair
* Lily Yam Kwan Pui-ying

On 23 September 2006, in a news conference, Chan proclaimed that she would not run for the position of Chief Executive in 2007.

LegCo campaign 2007

On 11 September 2007, Chan announced that she would run in the December 2007 in the Legislative Council made vacant by the death of Ma Lik. During the campaign, she was criticized by Alex Tsui, a former official who accused Chan of obtaining a 100% mortgage to purchase a flat in 1993 when she was chief secretary, suggesting an abuse of power. A commentator said the issue marked the start of a smear campaign against Chan, although Chan did not engage in smear-free politics either, accusing her rival Regina Ip of being a "fake democrat".

In the early hours of 2 December 2007, Chan was elected in the by-election with 175,874 votes, securing about 55% of the vote. Regina Ip, Chan's main rival, had 137,550 votes.

For this election, Chan spent HK$1.81 million, $330,000 more than her pro-Beijing rival Regina Ip. Her two main donors were Sir Quo-wei Lee and his wife, and Hong Kong Democratic Foundation chairman George Cautherly, who donated HK$250,000 each. Next Media chairman Jimmy Lai chee-ying donated HK$200,000, and the Democratic Party gave HK$65,840 "for services".

Leaving LegCo

On 6 July 2008, Chan announced that she would not be seeking reelection to the Legislative Council.


Among her numerous siblings, one brother, David Fang Jin-sheng, was a former orthopaedics lecturer and Hong Kong Academy of Medicine chief, and another brother, John Fang Meng-sang, is a lawyer.

She and her husband have two children, Michelle and Andrew. They have four grandchildren.

No comments: