Chief Secretary for Administration Anson Chan Fang On-sang will be counting the days before she can leave her troubles temporarily behind her. In just over a month's time she is expected to depart on an extended vacation which may last as long as five weeks. According to government gossip, she and husband Archie will be taking a luxury cruise through the Mediterranean. No one can dispute that Mrs Chan, like many of her senior colleagues, is desperately overdue a holiday, having worked flat-out through last year's handover and the establishment of Tung Chee-hwa's SAR administration. But it can hardly have failed to cross the mind of Mrs Chan, who recently hinted at her hopes of succeeding Mr Tung in 2002, that taking such a long break may also serve a useful secondary purpose. Perhaps her absence will force the Chief Executive to appreciate how much he has come to rely on her to run the civil service. It might even prompt Mr Tung to start taking Mrs Chan's views more seriously, for fear she might otherwise take a permanent vacation. Eight months after the handover, few now put much effort into denying the disputes that divide senior figures in the SAR administration. Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Michael Suen Ming-yeung last week publicly hinted at what is well known: namely that civil servants and Executive Councillors are sometimes at odds with each other. 'In every family there are occasions when family members do not see eye to eye,' he told the provisional legislature. 'That is by no means odd. What is more important is that we should work at resolving the contradictions.' Nonetheless, Mr Suen insisted that press reports on the issue were 'seriously distorted'. It is also getting more difficult to find senior civil servants who will vigorously protest that everything is smooth in Mrs Chan's relations with Mr Tung. In public, the Chief Secretary insists there are no problems, reassuring Vice-Premier Qian Qichen on this point during her recent visit to Beijing. 'Contrary to media speculation from time to time, we work extremely well as a team,' she said when questioned on this in the United States. In private, Mrs Chan has become more forthcoming. Colleagues say she admits to being at odds with Mr Tung over some issues, but seeks to reassure them that the relationship between the two - which long predates his appointment as Chief Executive - is strong enough to survive such differences. However, other - unconfirmed - reports talk of blazing rows between the two with few officials prepared to take Mrs Chan's side. Rather than seek to deny the existence of such differences, her defenders now spend more time trying to make them seem less significant. They point to the uneasy relationships between many governors and chief secretaries in the colonial era, as if to suggest that the supposedly smooth relationship between Mrs Chan and Chris Patten over the past few years was an exception to the normal situation. Extracts are also cited from Jonathan Dimbleby's The Last Governor, such as the revelation that the former Governor once forced her to rewrite a speech on the provisional legislature, which show this relationship was not as smooth as it appeared at the time. Some of Mrs Chan's public comments also try to put her relations with Mr Tung in a more historical context. 'Every governor, every chief executive, has his or her different style, different personality, different convictions,' she said. 'I think I feel comfortable about working with every one of my senior officers since I joined the civil service many years ago.' The best advice for Mrs Chan and all those who seek to conceal the divisions in the SAR administration is that such efforts are certain to fail. For five years, Mr Patten sought to pretend the British Foreign Office was entirely behind him, only to be exposed as a liar by the Dimbleby book. Those who wish to retain their credibility would do far better to go further down the path that Mr Suen began last week - and openly admit the differences which everyone knows exist.