SCMP Saturday, April 28, 2001

Outgoing Anson vows not to meddle


Anson Chan Fang On-sang yesterday marked her departure as Chief Secretary for Administration by pledging she would not dictate to her successor how to do his job.
Speaking on the eve of her last working day before she ends her 38-year civil service career, Mrs Chan said there was no need for her to advise her successor, Financial Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, because he should know how to do his new job.
"I am not [Singapore's senior minister] Lee Kuan Yew . . . You owe to your successor silence," she said during a media gathering at her official residence, Victoria House in Barker Road.
Mrs Chan said again her departure was not related to her trip to Beijing last September during which she was told by Vice-Premier Qian Qichen to "better support" Tung Chee-hwa. "He only encouraged me to support Mr Tung."
Mrs Chan was reportedly criticised by Liao Hui, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council for failing to co-operate with Mr Tung. But she denies these reports.
The Chief Secretary said both she and Mr Tung were aware of each others' roles. "You will be surprised if I said we see eye-to-eye 100 per cent. He knows that I support him whole-heartedly," she said, adding that nothing could affect their friendship.
She said Mr Tung's job was "more difficult than for any colonial governor as he has to walk a tightrope balancing between one country and two systems".
The "Iron Lady" once said she wept before the handover because she had to face the pressure of serving both the colonial government and the mainland.
However, yesterday she refused to say if she had wept over anything relating to her work since the handover.
Described as the conscience of Hong Kong, Mrs Chan said she did not treat the label as a burden. She said the two most unforgettable moments were the handover ceremony and the standing ovation she received when she delivered her swansong speech to the Asia Society last week.
The most difficult time in her career was the chaotic opening of the new airport at Chek Lap Kok in 1998, she said.
Mrs Chan said she had taken great pride in the airport project, which she had spent time promoting on an international level. The project eventually won international recognition.
Mrs Chan was also glad that the telecommunication markets were liberalised during her term.
She also mentioned the Kwok Ah-lui case. As director of social welfare in the mid-1980s, Mrs Chan had ordered her staff to force their way into the flat where little Ah-lui lived. The child's mentally ill mother had held her a virtual prisoner, depriving her of contact with the outside world.
Mrs Chan said that incident had made her stronger. She said she still believed she had made the right decision. "Once you have made a decision, you should not waver," she said.
"The girl has pledged to study hard and be kind to her mother to pay me back," Mrs Chan said.
Before her departure, she said she had advice for her young colleagues: "Your career will come to an end but your family will never come to an end."
She said she would spend more time with her husband Archie and her three grandchildren.
"I may miss the press in the first few days but I hope the media will leave me in peace."
Refusing to disclose whether she has been offered any post-retirement jobs, Mrs Chan said she planned to move out of Victoria House in early June. She will spend July in London and go on a 12-day cruise to Greece and Italy. She planned to learn to cook Italian dishes in Florence and elsewhere in Tuscany.

She also hoped to visit Taiwan in a private capacity and said that it would have been too sensitive a trip in an official role. But she said she would refrain from any political activities. She said she would like to visit the imperial palace museum in Taipei.

Mrs Chan's parting shot, delivered with her trademark smile, was that to stay young one should be open-minded and easy-going.