SCMP Friday, February 16, 2001

New chapter in a classic tale


Being named financial secretary-designate might have been his finest hour, but Antony Leung Kam-chung is no stranger to the political limelight.
He already had a solid background in finance before joining the Executive Council - Tung Chee-hwa's cabinet - and taking charge of the education reform portfolio in 1997.
His rise to power and fame is the classic story of a child from a poor background climbing the social ladder and reaching the top.
Born in Hong Kong in 1952, he grew up with eight siblings in a tiny flat in Sheung Wan. His father supported the family by working in a restaurant.
Mr Leung graduated with flying colours from Ying Wa College in 1970 and studied economics at the University of Hong Kong - an education made possible only by several grants and scholarships - graduating in 1973.
It was at university that he had his first taste of politics.
He was among the students who demonstrated against the Japanese occupation of the Diaoyu islands in April 1970 and was beaten up by police.
When he received his economics degree in 1973, Mr Leung thought about continuing his studies at the London School of Economics, which he considered sufficiently leftist.
He decided to join Citibank in Hong Kong to earn enough quick money to fulfil his plans.
But the plans never materialised.
Instead, he excelled in the bank and rose up the ladder, getting postings in several Asian countries in commercial, investment and private banking, before being appointed as the bank's Asia-Pacific head based in Singapore in 1995.
A year later he jumped ship to rival Chase Manhattan, where he was promoted to his present position as Asia-Pacific regional head last March.
Mr Leung was made a member of the University Grants Committee in 1987, the start of his dual-path as an educationalist and banker. He headed the committee from 1993 to 1998.
Since 1987 he has sat on several statutory and advisory committees to both the SAR Government and Beijing. He was appointed chairman of the Education Commission in April 1998 and was entrusted with the task of reforming the education system.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post in 1997, Mr Leung said he was not suitable for a life in politics.
"I am not the right character. I talk too much and say what I think," he said. "I'd be finished very quickly if I went into politics."
But since then he has achieved a solid track-record as an Executive Councillor, a good omen for his new position.
Mr Leung is believed to have separated from his wife, Sophie Tam Suk-fun. They have no children.