Anson Chan urges HK to uphold values and freedom


HONG KONG, AP

On her last day in office before retirement, Hong Kong’s second in command Anson Chan on Saturday urged the territory to uphold its values of a free society.

Hours before ending her 39-year civil service career, Chan said in a broadcast by the government-owned RTHK that Hong Kong must maintain its tradition of a “tolerant, cosmopolitan, internationally oriented and broad-minded society.”

Hong Kong must maintain its core values such as the rule of law, independent judiciary, free press, and a politically neutral and clean government, Chan said.

But in order to remain competitive in the region, Hong Kong must first eliminate poverty and inequality, encourage self reliance and foster a sense of belonging.

“We must preserve and enhance autonomy. There are many cities in the region which aspire to Hong Kong’s place in the world. We maintain our competitive edge over them by emphasizing our differences, not by trying to be like them,” Chan said.

Chan also noted confidence in society had declined, but blamed the Asia financial crisis rather than the change of sovereignty to mainland China.

“This is not because of the transition. I think most of us agree that it has gone pretty well, better even than some may have thought,” Chan said.

Chan is retiring earlier than expected but has repeatedly denied a much-reported feud with her boss, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa. She said she is quitting to spend more time with her family. Many believe her sudden departure was linked to Beijing’s disapproval.

Many pro-Beijing figures here believe Chan, much praised by her former colonial British bosses, was too Western in her ways, and the Legislative Council — dominated by pro-Beijing and big business interests — recently voted against formally thanking her for her years of public service.

Chan had often been accused of upstaging Tung. She has consistently been Hong Kong’s most popular top official and a well-known face on the global stage.