In an article she wrote in the latest issue of Time magazine, Anson Chan, the retired chief secretary, unfairly criticized the way the central government had been dealing with the SAR, likening its behaviour to the malpractices during the "cultural revolution". Speaking in a tone as if she were representing Hong Kong, she called upon the central government to trust Hong Kong people.
Chan's attack on and vilification of the central government are in violation of the facts as well as her own conscience. She is not qualified to represent Hong Kong people whom she was trying to mislead.
On the one hand, Chan admitted in her article that the central authorities were empowered by the Constitution to concern themselves with the methods to select the chief executive and legislators in Hong Kong. At the same time, however, she lashed out at the central government for discharging its right and duty, which had actually been executed in a fair, reasonable and legal way. Her rebuke did not hold water.
Hong Kong society has witnessed major disputes surrounding the election methods for the chief executive and legislators in 2007 and beyond, which have brought about unnecessary conflicts and polarization in the community.
After consulting and absorbing opinions from a broad spectrum of society, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) made a timely and authoritative interpretation of the Basic Law and ruling on the SAR's constitutional development.
These moves are conducive to the stable development of the territory's political system along the path of the Basic Law.
The progress may not satisfy the differing demands of Hong Kong people on the pace of democratization, but it tallies with mainstream opinion that values prosperity and stability and stresses the significance of developing a democratic system in a gradual and orderly manner.
The NPCSC interpretation and decision have clarified a host of uncertainties over the issue of constitutional development. They have gone a long way in underpinning the executive-led regime, enabling the SAR to foster social consensus and to hammer out, through rational discussions, a political reform proposal that accords with the actual situation in the community.
Chan's total disregard of facts when she tried to discredit Beijing has once again proven that she is only trying to gain fame for herself with her self-proclaimed title of "Hong Kong's conscience". She is not worthy of this reputation and it is now necessary to remove this pretence of hers.
As a matter of fact, Chan recently expressed disappointment over the NPCSC decision, claiming that it would undermine Hongkongers' confidence in "One Country, Two Systems" and a high degree of autonomy.
Chief Secretary Donald Tsang, who was visiting Zhanjiang at that time, immediately countered that ever since reunification in 1997, Hong Kong people had been enjoying "One Country, Two Systems" and a high degree of autonomy, and the degree had never been crippled.
Business leader Gordon Wu also pointed out that Chan's accusation was totally wrong, and that she was harping on the same old tune in her recent Time magazine article.
In an interview with Newsweek not long before Hong Kong's return to the motherland, Chan claimed to be "Hong Kong's conscience". The magazine put her on the cover, describing her as Hong Kong's "Iron Lady" in a banner headline and calling her a "fighter".
The deeds of this so-called "Hong Kong conscience", who disregards facts and violates conscience, are like the classic story of Hua Pi in "Strange Tales from a Lonely Studio" - full of evil tricks.
Attacks against Beijing
Just before she retired, Chan told reporters, "I have served for more than 38 years in the Civil Service and seven years in the position of chief secretary...I have to leave sooner or later. All feasts must ultimately break up. Therefore I will never make any comments (on the government) from the sideline after I retire."
However, not only did she "make comments from the sideline", she has even smeared and attacked the central government without paying due respect to the facts. Such behaviour contravened not only the tradition of the Hong Kong government, but also her own words. Such flip-flops have manifested that her words are not trustworthy.
Before 1997, the British-Hong Kong government exerted tight control over senior officials. The majority of retired British officials had to return to their homeland, while those left behind were not allowed to comment on politics.
After her retirement, however, Chan has been making increasingly frequent attacks on the SAR and central governments, prejudicing seriously the tradition under which retired civil servants do not intervene in politics.
Aside from pocketing a one-off provident fund of HK$10 million, this retired member of the government's upper echelon continues to receive a monthly pension payment of tens of thousands of dollars. Taxpayers, therefore, have the right to ask Chan to speak from her conscience and on a fairer basis. If she receives the pension payment on the one hand and acts against taxpayers' interests on the other, is she going against her own conscience? This is a question Chan should ask herself.
Chan has accused the central government of dividing the local community to an unprecedented degree and continuously undermining society's tolerance toward different opinions. The fact is, the very party that has been doing that is Chan herself.
As the "pet" of the British, Chan was a key figure in the post-reunification ruling team deployed by Chris Patten, who tried to leave behind British influence within the SAR government. Chan was involved in all the various wrangles, conflicts and dissensions since reunification, directly or indirectly.
In 2000, Robert Chung, director of the Public Opinion Programme of the University of Hong Kong, divulged in two newspapers that the chief executive had put pressure on him through a third party with a view to influencing opinion polls on his popularity.
During the early stage of the episode, Chan called upon Chung to reveal the identity of the man behind the scene. When Andrew Lo Cheung-on was exposed, Chan asserted inside the government that Lu should be dismissed. At that time, an official who was Chan's confidant, frequently passed on to high managements of newspapers information that was unfavourable to Tung, pouring oil on the flames in the first wave of an anti-Tung campaign. The identity of the invisible hand could not be more obvious. Meanwhile, Chan's friends in the political arena circulated the rumour that she might run for the office of the second-term chief executive. This rumour might have had some truth in it.
Later, the political celebrity Allen Lee stressed, on the eve of the election for the second-term chief executive, that Chan stood a chance to become the new chief executive. The result of his remarks was another wave of anti-Tung sentiment.
Facts have shown without ambiguity that this "Hong Kong conscience" is vehemently ambitious, ready to whip up a campaign to topple Tung out of her craven desire for power. The way she attacked and smeared the central government in its handling of the SARS outbreak was similar to what was practised in the "cultural revolution". The way she attempted to seize power was identical to that of the "Gang of Four".
Resistance to co-operation
When she chaired the high-level Guangdong-Hong Kong joint conference, she adopted an attitude of resistance instead of co-operation, about which the public and the business sector had complained all along. While the Guangdong government often prepared proposals for bilateral co-operation, the Hong Kong side had nothing similar to offer. The two parties met only once annually, and the situation dragged on for a few years.
On July 1, 2002, Chan wrote an article in The Financial Times, saying that Hong Kong should not expect Beijing to be its saviour, and that Hong Kong must not become more Chinese in order to receive economic benefits. She was attempting to obstruct the intensification of Guangdong-Hong Kong economic co-operation.
Ronnie Chan, another business leader, once criticized Chan as being one of the persons who knew the least about the motherland, talking only about "Two Systems" and neglecting "One Country". Her attitude had led to the waste of three to four years in collaboration across the border. It was not until four to five years after reunification that the voice of co-operative development became louder. Had this initiative been taken earlier, many of the plans would have materialized by now.
When she was chairman of the Basic Law Promotion Steering Committee, Chan was again criticized by the public for stressing "Two Systems" and disregarding "One Country".
The legislation for Article 23 that began in 2002 was actually proposed soon after reunification. It was Chan who had reservations over the legislation. She engaged in heated debates with Tung over the matter and no consensus was reached, thereby leading to procrastination in the legislation. The "pro-democracy" camp subsequently made use of the economic recession to stage the July 1 demonstration that led to the shelving of the bill.
Chan has no tolerance for different opinions. At meetings of the NPC and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in 1998, I criticized Radio Television Hong Kong, the government-run broadcaster, for over-stressing its editorial independence and specializing in lambasting and opposing the SAR and central governments and the chief executive. I also pointed out that one of its programmes - "Headline News" - was cynical. Being unable to tolerate dissenting opinions, Chan openly criticized my comments as "inappropriate". She said my words would make society believe that somebody was trying to invite the central government to intervene in the SAR's affairs.
Chan has taken society's magnanimity as acquiescence for retired senior officials to break the tradition of not commenting on government policies. She is coming forward more frequently to attack and smear the SAR and central governments. That her excessive behaviour has sparked a strong backlash from the community is a matter of course.
I am hereby giving Chan a piece of advice: your pretence cannot cover up your evil tricks. The self-styled "Conscience of Hong Kong" should be ashamed of herself.
The author is a former standing member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. The article was published in
Wen Wei Po yesterday.
(HK Edition 06/09/2004 page2)