Bernard Chan may scale down public duties after heart operation

But Exco member won't quit all public roles despite undergoing heart surgery - and insists he never considered running for chief executive

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 April, 2014, 3:38am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 5:52pm

Executive Council member Bernard Chan says he will consider scaling back his work with NGOs after undergoing heart surgery on Monday - and ruled out a run for chief executive in 2017.

But the Asia Financial Holdings president stressed that he was not ruling out taking up other public posts.

Chan's high profile and strong communications skills have seen him tipped by some Beijing loyalists as a possible contender in 2017, due to be the first time the public votes for the city's leader. But an e-mail to friends on Tuesday, in which Chan revealed he underwent angioplasty and had been "very close to a heart attack", led to speculation he would give up politics.

However, Chan told the South China Morning Post yesterday that his health would not immediately affect his work, which also includes serving as a deputy to the National People's Congress.

"I have faced health problems in the last 30 years, and I have medical checks every three months," Chan said, referring to his diagnosis with Takayasu's disease, a rare, incurable disorder which causes inflammation of the blood vessels.

The latest health scare was unrelated, he said.

"It just surprised me that [my condition] seemed to have worsened [in recent months]," he added. Only on Saturday did he discover one of the three major arteries in his heart was 90 per cent obstructed and surgery was needed. In angioplasty, stents are inserted to widen narrow or obstructed arteries.

"I rested on Tuesday, and I'm working today … I don't think I need to take leave from work at this stage," he said yesterday. "[What I] need is to space out my appointments and try not to squeeze them too tightly … Maybe I will cut some of my work with non-governmental bodies … but I won't reject appointments to public posts because of health."

Besides his Exco duties and his role as head of one of the city's biggest insurers, Chan chairs the Advisory Committee on Revitalisation of Historic Buildings and the council of Lingnan University. His term in both posts ends this year. His terms as chairman of the Council for Sustainable Development and vice-chairman of Oxfam Hong Kong end next year. The Council of Social Service, which he also chairs, re-elects its chairman annually.

Chan would not say whether he would seek a new term in any of those posts.

Chan dismissed claims by a source that the health scare had caused him to have "second thoughts" on 2017, saying a run had "never been" on his mind.

"I have said previously that there's absolutely no chance that I will be running, because it's just not my cup of tea," Chan said.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying can run for a second term in 2017, but his unpopularity has led to speculation about other possible candidates, including Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and former financial chief Antony Leung Kam-chung.

Chan, a member of the Thai-Chinese family that founded Bangkok Bank, said the only impact his health had on his public service was as a motivation.

"While I'm still alive, I'd like to do my best," he said.