SCMP Saturday, April 28, 2001

Loved and loathed to the end


Anson Chan Fang On-sang ends her civil service career in much the same way as she spent her tenure as Chief Secretary - provoking a mixture of praise and criticism.
Model civil servant, charismatic leader, an advocate of wider democracy and Hong Kong's best saleswoman overseas - according to her fans. But critics say she failed to help strengthen mainland relations and was never able to act in genuine partnership with the Chief Executive.
"She is a symbol of continuity," said Dr James Tang Tuck-hong, head of political science at the University of Hong Kong. "The international community has been convinced by her sheer presence."
Frank Martin, president of the American Chamber of Commerce, also acknowledged her key role in Hong Kong's transition and implementation of "one country, two systems". "Her reputation as a tough and principled defender of Hong Kong's interests was particularly effective in Washington," he said.
But former Liberal Party chairman Allen Lee Peng-fei said Mrs Chan's place as Hong Kong's saleswoman-in-chief had come at a price. "The more she established an international reputation, the less she gained trust from Beijing. Her loyalty is to Hong Kong."
He said Hong Kong was losing a driving force for democracy with the departure of Mrs Chan, who used her farewell speech to the Asia Society last week to push for debate on universal suffrage for the post of chief executive and the legislature.
Her discord with Tung Chee-hwa was an open secret, Mr Lee said.
Xu Simin, a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference member and one of Mrs Chan's harshest critics, said he planned to write a long essay condemning her legacy. Mr Xu said her latest sin was to use the Asia Society speech to encourage civil servants to speak up against their bosses. "Mrs Chan has only one boss - who is Mr Tung," he said.
Solicitor Kennedy Wong Ying-ho, of the New Century Forum, described Mrs Chan as a genius in politics, who could remain popular despite major blunders. He cited the initial chaos after the opening of Chek Lap Kok airport, noting that Mrs Chan had headed the steering committee monitoring progress.
He said a cross-border liaison committee led by Mrs Chan had failed to strengthen ties with Guangdong.