Rising star in Hong Kong government quits to study at Harvard

Ronald Chan says his decision has nothing to do with his job prospects under the city’s next leader, Carrie Lam

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 May, 2017, 7:26pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 May, 2017, 9:51pm

Deputy constitutional minister Ronald Chan Ngok-pang has quit a month before his term with the outgoing administration was due to expire in order to study overseas.

A rising government star and former protégé of lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, Chan said the decision had nothing to do with his promotion prospects under the city’s next leader, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who takes over as chief executive on July 1.

“It’s about my personal career planning,” Chan, 35, said on Thursday. “I still hope to continue to serve the people in the future, but I want to equip myself better and broaden my horizons first.”

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Chan said he would start a master’s programme in public administration at Harvard Kennedy School from late June. He goes on leave from June 16 and officially ends his term on June 28, two days before his contract was due to expire.

His boss, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, has indicated he will also step down on July 1.

Chan graduated from Stanford University with a master’s degree in political and comparative sociology. He became a protégé of his classmate Ip and was elected to Southern district council in 2007.

He quit the council in 2010 and joined the government as special assistant at the office of then chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.

His sudden departure from Ip’s Savantas think tank irked her and she said young people should make it clear whether they genuinely wanted to work with her or just climb the social ladder.

Chan was appointed political assistant to Tam two months after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying took office in 2012.

He helped top officials tackle the thorny issue of political reform for universal suffrage, which ended in failure in 2015 as pan-democrats voted down the government’s proposal modelled on Beijing’s stringent framework.

Afterwards, he took over from Lau Kwong-wah as undersecretary in his bureau, becoming the youngest person to fill such a high rank.