Out to impress as a new journey begins
Anson Chan Fang On-sang was walking on thin ice last night in trying to find a meeting point between ideals and reality.
Her appearance at an election forum hosted by the pan-democratic camp marked the end of a 39-year civil service career and the start of a new journey in elective politics.
Mrs Chan exuded a sense of civil service pragmatism and prudence, taking questions from a panel of academics and participants on a range of political and public policy issues.
She also sought to impress with her readiness to descend from the top tier to hear from people and understand their problems.
That Mrs Chan was careful not to overcommit on what she can accomplish if successful in the December Legislative Council by-election on Hong Kong Island says much about the difficulty in positioning herself in the political landscape.
There is no doubt her public service is an advantage in helping her to get a grip on the issues. It could, however, prove a liability for her to play the role of a legislator, as she will be fully aware of the practical constraints and difficulties in reconciling differences of views and diverse interests in policymaking.
It is hardly a coincidence that she has remained non-committal on issues such as enacting a law on a minimum wage and expanding the accountability system - instead stressing the importance of consultation for building consensus.
Her moderate, cautious and rational approach is in sharp contrast with the radical, sensational style of her democrat rival Lo Wing-lok. Arguably, it is also different from the style and approach of the mainstream Democratic and Civic parties.
Such differences are not necessarily bad for Mrs Chan and the pan-democrats. Maintaining a degree of independence, in terms of both image and substance, could help her reach out to and gain support from a broader section of society.
If she succeeds, she stands a better chance of achieving her goal of bridging the gap between political parties, government and Legco, the mainland and Hong Kong, and different sectors of society.