‘Hong Kong’s Conscience’ Takes Up Battle for Universal Suffrage
HONG KONG—Ever since retreating from politics, Hong Kong’s former number two official, Chief Secretary Anson Chan, has kept a low-profile. However, with the drastic changes in the political situation in the mainland, and with Beijing interfering directly in the affairs of Hong Kong, “Hong Kong’s conscience”, as Anson Chan is known, has re-entered the arena.
‘Not Turning Left’
The group “Hong Kong 2020”, founded by Anson Chan in April 2013, held a joint press conference with the Civic Party on Jan. 6, with the theme of “Universal suffrage, not turning left”.
The press conference expressed disappointment in the consultation documents of political reform released by the government and declared the intention of fighting alongside the Hong Kong people for a genuine universal suffrage that complies with international standards in terms of being universal and equal.
Chan criticized the consultation document released by the government on the procedures for elections of the Legislative Council in 2016 and the Chief Executive in 2017 as pre-determining the outcome.
“The document and the open speech of the officials show that the government has already set a frame on the elections of 2016 Legislative Council and 2017 Chief Executive which were deeply influenced by Beijing,” said Chan.
She hopes to unite with Hong Kong citizens on a proper path of universal suffrage.
“Our document states clearly the important principles of implementing universal suffrage, that is any election system should be universal and equal, there should not be unreasonable restriction on rights of election and being elected, only then could we elect a highly recognized Chief Executive with credibility to improve on the execution of policies”, Chan said.
Chan said that there were 62,000 people casting their votes during mock voting held on New Year’s day. In fact, had there not been an online traffic jam, it was estimated that voters would have far exceeded that number, she said.
Offended Jiang Zemin
Anson Chan’s smiling face has gained popularity. She has been nick named “Chan the 40,000”, as her smile is said to resemble that on the Mahjohng 40,000 piece.
After the change of sovereignty in 1997, she continued to serve as chief secretary in the Special Administrative Region. It was rumoured that she disagreed with then Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, and she took early retirement in 2001 that was said to be for personal reasons, ending a civil servant career of 39 years.
The reason behind Anson Chan’s resignation was related to the handling of the spiritual practice of Falun Gong.
In December 1999, the then head of the Chinese Communist Party Jiang Zemin encountered protests from Falun Gong practitioners during the transfer of sovereignty of Macau. Jiang said “the Special Administrative Region government has the duty to defend national security”.
Anson Chan responded that Falun Gong is a lawful organization in Hong Kong, and its activities are permitted as long as they are not against Hong Kong’s laws. That greatly offended Jiang Zemin.
In 2001 Hong Kong Falun Gong practitioners applied to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) to hold an experience-sharing conference at the Hong Kong City Hall. The Department asked for direction from Anson Chan, who responded that the application should be processed as usual.
LCSD then agreed to rent out the City Hall to Falun Gong practitioners. Jiang Zemin’s main aim was to suppress Falun Gong, and this incident hit a raw nerve with him.
‘Hong Kong’s Conscience’ Persists
Anson Chan always has always stressed that civil servants must be politically neutral, “to keep the core values of freedom, equality and justice in Hong Kong”. Such a clear-cut attitude has gained recognition from the general Hong Kong citizens and earned her the title of “Hong Kong’s conscience.”
After her retirement, Anson Chan periodically expressed her opinions on Hong Kong politics and the social situation. In 2007, she took part in the by-election of the Legislative Council for Hong Kong Island, defeating her competitor Regina Ip, who was supported by the Beijing government. She served for one year.
After retreating from politics again, Anson Chan concentrated on her family and kept a low profile, till April last year with the announcement of the founding of Hong Kong 2020 for the sake of the development of Hong Kong’s political system. The Basic Law promises that Hong Kong will have full universal suffrage in the 2020 Legislative Council elections.
At the New Year’s day march for democracy, Anson Chan was very popular among the people who asked for pamphlets from her and requested to have photos taken with her.
Before Leung Chun-ying’s election as Hong Kong chief executive in 2012, she had criticized Leung as “cunning” and a “chameleon”. In the last six months, Anson Chan has shown extreme discontent with the policies of Leung Chun-ying, whom she criticized as antagonizing all fields and polarizing Hong Kong’s society.
Translated by Y.K. Lu. Written in English by Christine Ford
Read the original Chinese article.