'We don't want Hong Kong to turn into another Chinese city', says Anson Chan

Former chief secretary says Hong Kong must defend core values and not become another Chinese city

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 October, 2013, 5:17am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 October, 2013, 1:58pm

Hong Kong must "determine for itself" the role it plays in the development of the nation, but should not be content to become just another Chinese city, according to former government No 2 Anson Chan Fang On-sang.

In an exclusive video interview ahead of the latest South China Morning Post "Redefining Hong Kong" debate tomorrow, Chan also insisted she was not "anti-China" and attacked people who believed the best way forward for the city was to simply do what Beijing wanted.

The former chief secretary said it was crucial for those in power in the SAR to fulfil their duty in safeguarding Hong Kong's core values and questioned the "integrity and credibility" of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

"What is best about Hong Kong is the fact that we are a pluralistic society, we are open, we are tolerant," Chan said. "But above all, we have proper regard for human dignity, for rights and freedoms and above all for the rule of law. These are Hong Kong's strengths and these strengths are what set Hong Kong apart from mainland China."

Those people - whom she did not identify - who simply did what Beijing or the central government's liaison office wanted needed to reflect, she said.

"They don't stop to think what is it that makes Hong Kong tick … We have neither the land nor the human resources, so where do we compete if not relying on our strengths?," Chan asked. "Why do businesses come here? Why are we the pre-eminent financial centre for China and not Shanghai and not Beijing?"

Chan said people who had benefitted from living and working in Hong Kong "owe a duty and a commitment to the general public" to protect its core values, because "for some of the richer people, they always have a choice, if things go wrong here, they can up and go".

"Hong Kong is our home, but it's our home for very specific reasons, we don't want to turn into another Chinese city," she said in a video profile that also looks back on her life and career in Hong Kong.

A "one country, two systems" framework was drawn up by Deng Xiaoping as part of Beijing's promise in the 1980s that Hong Kong's economic system and civil liberties would remain unchanged. But it has been much debated in recent years amid increasing tension between Hong Kong and the mainland.

Chan, who was chief secretary between 1993 and 2001, said it was time to rethink the city's role as part of the nation.

"I'm not anti-China. I fully respect 'one country, two systems', but I place equal emphasis on both one country and two systems," Chan stressed. "If you see things happening that are chipping away at 'one country, two systems' and eroding our rights and freedoms, then you have a duty to stand up and have the courage of your convictions, that's all I am doing."

People "who have the ear of Beijing should impress upon" them that the SAR's current constitutional framework needs reform such as genuine steps towards universal suffrage and the development of political parties to "make Hong Kong more stable", Chan said, adding that if this is not done, "Hong Kong will become increasingly ungovernable".

She said that instead of criticising the pro-democracy Occupy Central movement, the government should try to forge consensus and make sure its electoral package was acceptable to all.

Chan also suggested that Leung should "appreciate the importance" of establishing his credibility and integrity in the wake of a number of scandals that have affected him since he took office in July last year.

Occupy Central is led by associate law professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting as a last push for democracy, but Leung has warned against civil disobedience. In August, former radio host Robert Chow Yung formed a campaign group opposed to Occupy Central, while all 18 district councils, dominated by Beijing-loyalists, passed motions condemning Tai's plan.

Chan questioned whether those against the civil disobedience movement had been created by "behind-the-scenes manoeuvring".

The Post's exclusive profile -- Anson Chan: In her own words

Video: Anson Act I -- Intro

Video: Anson Act II — Being a woman in government

Video: Anson Act III — The truth about Ah-nui

Video: Anson Act IV — CY Leung

Video: Anson Act V -- China