I underestimated public anger in July 2003, admits Regina Ip

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 July, 2006, 12:00am

Former secretary for security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, speaking in a television interview in which she declined to rule herself out of running for chief executive one day, yesterday admitted she had underestimated the public anger that led to the mass protests of July 2003.

But she insisted that people were angry three years ago only because the government had decided to push ahead with the Article 23 anti-subversion legislation at a time of an economic slump brought about by the Sars crisis.

'We - I myself, certainly - underestimated the anger,' she said on Newsline, describing the proposed anti-subversion legislation as 'a lightning rod' that triggered mass protest.

She said that a lot of misinformation flew around at the time of the Article 23 controversy, but that the media was not interested in reporting the government's clarification of the bill, which sought to outlaw treason and subversion.

'We were seen to be pushing something that didn't matter to the people. I think that's the reason we lost our public relations battle. There was economic hardship and Sars, resulting in almost 300 dead. Looking back, I can understand why the public thought the government was pushing something that didn't matter to them.'

Describing the strong media interest in her return to public life as unexpected, the 56-year-old would say only that making a bid for chief executive was a 'very tall order'.

'I won't dream of running for chief executive for quite a while in the foreseeable future. But it's very flattering. I have to find out first whether I am up to it.'

Asked if she felt she was chief executive material, she said: 'I don't know. It's for others to say.'

On the question of whether she had any other electoral plans, such as standing for the Legislative Council, Mrs Ip admitted that she had been flooded with advice.

'I've got a lot of free advice, from the media, consultants, strategists, who told me, 'You could think of this and that'. There are lot of options on the table. And I am continuing to listen.'

The controversial security chief resigned to study in the US three years ago amid outrage over the Tung administration and the anti-subversion bill she tabled.

Declaring herself passionate about democracy 'now', Mrs Ip said she did not have to show this by marching in the street, as former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang had done recently.

'I do have a bee in my bonnet about mass demonstration. You know how important it is to guard against 'tyranny of the majority' if you study democratic theories,' she said, denying that her views on this had anything to do with her experience of mass protest and her departure from Hong Kong.