CHIEF Secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang is making a mistake if she thinks fears that a hidden agenda lay behind her Beijing trip are simply going to fade away.
Mrs Chan's uninformative statement to the Legislative Council on Wednesday only adds to such suspicions. What should have been an ideal opportunity to clear the air instead had the reverse effect: her failure to give any but the sparsest details of the visit, coupled with Legco President Sir John Swaine's refusal to allow most of the follow-up questions, left many legislators even more concerned than before. Governor Chris Patten's question and answer session with legislators yesterday was another missed opportunity to lay the matter to rest.
None of this is necessary. If, as Mrs Chan has repeatedly insisted, no secret deals were struck in her meetings with Vice-Premier Qian Qichen and Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office Director Lu Ping, there is no reason not to allay any fears by giving a full account of her discussions. Hong Kong deserves better than the anodyne description it received on Wednesday of meetings that discussed everything from the territory's economic problems to the formation of the Preparatory Committee. Important questions, which Sir John prevented legislators from asking, remain unclear: such as why Mrs Chan left herself so exposed by attending the meetings alone, and whether the setting-up of the provisional legislature was discussed.
That Mrs Chan has not so far answered these is probably more due to her legendary secretiveness than anything else. But, by failing to do so, she is only harming her own interests and those of the Government as a whole.
Mrs Chan's surprise trip to Beijing was a welcome breakthrough that was rightly seen as a hopeful sign relations with Beijing are on the mend. So it would be a tragedy to see it become mired by unnecessary suspicions: Mrs Chan owes it to the people of Hong Kong to come clean.