Anson Chan

Regina Ip has more to do to restore faith

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 September, 2007, 12:00am


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Former secretary for security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee's apology for the way in which she pressed Hong Kong to accept unpopular security law proposals is welcome, although it has been a long time in coming.

Four years have passed since her resignation, and much has changed both in Hong Kong and for Mrs Ip in that time. She departed public office as one of the city's most reviled ministers. But after studying in the US, she returned with a new image and set up her own think-tank. Now, she is taking on a fresh, challenging role - as the pro-Beijing camp's candidate for the directly-elected Legislative Council seat for Hong Kong Island.

That Mrs Ip said she was sorry to voters was a necessary part of her campaign. Remarks she made at the time were flawed - and highly insensitive. Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler rose to power because of democracy, she had suggested, while people demonstrating in a huge anti-government rally would do so because they had had nothing better to do that day.

Former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa had good reason to choose Mrs Ip as his security chief - her distinguished record with the civil service marked by a no-nonsense reputation for getting results. Such an approach had arguably been an asset when faced with right-of-abode protesters and student activists. For tackling those matters, the combative Mrs Ip won praise.

But selling Article 23 proposals required reasoned persuasion and a charm offensive. Mrs Ip was the wrong person for the job. As she pointed out yesterday, her efforts to push through the legislation were part of the duties she had been given.

Even so, Mrs Ip has much work to do to rebuild her reputation. Standing in a democratic election for Legco provides her with an ideal opportunity to restore credibility and - perhaps - move on from troubled times in the past.

Her opponent in the poll is almost certain to be former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang, representing the democrats. An intriguing race is in the offing. Both women are intelligent, articulate and high-profile. Both will have to face up to the challenges which come with being politicians on the hustings - very different to the role they played as bureaucrats.

Done right, the election has the potential to be one our city can be proud of. Hopefully it will fair, hard-fought and spark public debate of the issues which really matter.