My Take

Anson Chan’s invitation to Trump inauguration is more about ego than substance

Former chief secretary might think it’s a big deal but she doesn’t have the ear of the US president-elect, who couldn’t care less about Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 January, 2017, 1:25am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 January, 2017, 1:25am

Anson Chan Fang On-sang is not Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. So our former chief secretary’s invitation to attend Donald Trump’s inauguration in Washington isn’t as heart-stopping for Beijing as Tsai’s congratulatory phone call with the US president-elect or his alarming take on America’s “one-China” policy.

Does her invitation signal a policy change in Washington when it comes to Hong Kong? Or is it just one of Trump’s typical flip-flops because he neither knows nor cares much about the city’s politics within the overall Sino-US relations?

Most likely it’s the latter. Trump has been having a blossoming bromance with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. Russia’s democratic development is not something that particularly interests or worries him. And while he and key members of his incoming cabinet have been critical of China, it has to do almost exclusively with currency, trade and maritime conflicts in the South China Sea. Given Barack Obama’s lukewarm interest in Hong Kong politics, it’s even harder to imagine Trump to show any interest in that direction at all.

Former Hong Kong chief secretary Anson Chan to attend Donald Trump’s inauguration

So what to make of Chan’s visit to Washington? It’s quite an ego trip for this prima donna of Hong Kong politics. In a normal world, someone with her background would be there to promote Hong Kong and the country as a whole. There isn’t a more important geopolitical and economic relation in the 21st century than that between China and the US. But given the narrow egocentricity of the city’s pan-democrats, Chan will do no such thing – rather the opposite.

The trip is a big deal for Chan, though, who is now 76. She has friends in high places within the Republican Party.

“They know my past experience,” she said, “What values I stand for, my public service record, and support the work I am doing. So in their words, the move is their way of honouring my legacy.”

It’s not clear what legacy is being referred to. The disastrous opening of the then new airport in Chek Lap Kok when she was chief secretary? Or her failed power struggle within the first post-1997 administration in which she was sidelined? That paved her way to joining the pan-democratic camp. That is, perhaps, a legacy of sorts for this “conscience of Hong Kong”.