TV host reminded of father's tragic death in 1996 Diaoyus mission

Now TV presenter Brian Chanwas just eight when David Chanperished on a 1996 mission to the Diaoyus similar to that undertaken last week

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 August, 2012, 10:03am

While many Hongkongers wished the eight activists who sailed from Hong Kong to the disputed Diaoyu Islands success in their mission, Brian Chan On-lap had just one hope - that all would "return home safely to their families".

Chan harbours tragic memories of a similar expedition in 1996 which claimed the life of his father, the journalist and activist David Chan Yuk-cheung, who drowned after leaping into rough seas with other activists.

Now 24, Brian Chan has a burgeoning career as an entertainment anchor for Now TV, but he does not want to connect his own growing fame to his father's death.

When asked how he felt when the Kai Fung No2 expedition set off to the Japanese-controlled islands to assert Chinese sovereignty, he was reticent. "I am always on television and I don't want to be constantly talking about my father … because it hurts my mother and sister," he said.

Although he was too young to understand why his father died at the time of the tragedy, he began searching his name on the internet as a teenager and finally understood why some considered him a "martyr".

"My family and I are proud of my father's life. It definitely makes me sad to revisit memories, but I don't wish to make any political comments regarding the Diaoyu Islands."

Brian Chan did admit that learning about his father had left him "inspired by his pursuit of ideals".

While he may not share the lofty ambitions of his father, whose passion for politics led him to seek a seat on the Legislative Council, Brian does have aspirations of his own and would love to host an adventure travel show. "I hope to introduce Hongkongers to places around the world through meeting interesting personalities - which is the best way to understand a place."

David Chan left behind his wife, Lau Shun-hing, who owns a kindergarten on the mainland, besides Brian and his older sister On-yin, who is studying in London.

"When I learned that my father passed away, I became the only male in my family and stepped up to the plate to protect them," said Brian Chan, who was just eight at the time of the tragedy. "My mother protected me when my father first died by not telling me there were a dozen reporters' vans outside our home."

He adds: "At this sensitive time now, I can shield my family by responding to media on their behalf."