Anson Chan

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Anson Chan

Anson Chan Fang On Sang GBM GCMG CBE JP (陳方安生) (born January 17, 1940) is formerly a prominent and long-standing head of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR)'s civil service before and after the territory's handover to the People's Republic of China from British colonial rule. She is the first woman and the first Chinese to hold the second-highest governmental position in Hong Kong.


Born in 1940 in Shanghai, China, Chan was educated at Hong Kong's Sacred Heart Canossian College (formerly known as Italian Convent School and Sacred Heart School) and the University of Hong Kong.

Chan's father, who was a textile manufacturer, moved the family to Hong Kong in 1948. Her mother Fang Zhaoling is a well-known painter. Her grandfather, Fang Zhenwu, was a Kuomintang general who fought against the Japanese occupation. Her uncle, Harry Fang, is a well-known doctor in Hong Kong.

In 1950, Chan's father died and her mother widowed with eight young children. With the support of Chan's grandmother, her mother not only shouldered the responsibility of raising her children but also tried to pursue her career as an artist. She took two of her sons to study in England and Chan and her five other siblings were left in Hong Kong with their grandmother and uncle.

Under her grandmother's strict discipline and high expectations, Chan learned that she had a duty towards the family and the community and was expected to be upright, diligent and righteous.

In 1959, Chan entered the University of Hong Kong as an English Literature student. She earned her pocket money by working as a private tutor. She at first decided to pursue a career as a social worker upon graduation.

However in 1962, Chan joined the civil service as an administrative service cadet. She became a senior administrative officer in 1970. During this period she helped set up the Association of Female Senior Government Officers to fight for better rights for women civil servants.

Appointed Director of Social Welfare in 1980, she was severely criticized by media in 1986 for her handling of a child custody case involving a five-year-old girl taken away by force from her mentally-ill mother.

From 1987 to 1993, she was Secretary for Economic Services, becoming Chief Secretary in 1993 to oversee the localization of the civil service.

"Iron Lady" Chan, deputy under Tung and the last British Governor Chris Patten, is one of Asia's most powerful women and was once described as being like "an iron fist in a velvet glove".

From July 1, 1997, with the end of colonial rule, she stayed on as head of the civil service, continuing to serve the Hong Kong SAR government under Chief Executive of Hong Kong Tung Chee-hwa.

After the handover, Chan was criticized for her role in the monitoring of the completion of the new airport at Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong International Airport, after the chaos of its opening in 1998.

After the airport fiasco, she agreed in 1999 to delay her retirement until June 2002. But she did not display total obedience towards the Chief Executive and was told to support Mr Tung more by Beijing. She announced her resignation in January 2001 and stepped down officially in April of the same year.

In recognition to her 34 years of public service to Hong Kong, she has been appointed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to be an honorary Dame Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George in 2002.

Hong Kong's "conscience"

Chan's public utterances have sometimes been at odds with the words of Tung. She said before her resignation in 2001 that she would be ready to quit if asked to accept policies that clashed with her principles.

In contrast to her more conservative boss, Chan is credited by some to have been more forthcoming with supporting democracy and freedom, and to have called for faster pace of democratisation.

Chan flew to the defence of a government radio station in 1999 after pro-Beijing figures attacked it for being too critical of the central authorities and Tung's government.

In 2001, she hit out again, at a senior Chinese official for trying to gag Hong Kong media reports on Taiwan.

In what the Hong Kong media saw as a dressing down for Chan, PRC Vice Premier Qian Qichen told her in Beijing in September to support the unpopular Tung.

Qian's call came after months of criticism of Chan by pro-Beijing figures, with some privately floating a conspiracy theory which placed her as instigator of a series of "Dump Tung" campaigns.

See also

Preceded by:
to be added
Secretary for Economic Services
Succeeded by:
Gordon Siu
Preceded by:
Edward Barrie Wiggham
Secretary for the Civil Service
Succeeded by:
Michael Sze
Preceded by:
Sir David Robert Ford
Chief Secretary
Succeeded by:
Title renamed
Preceded by:
Title renamed
Chief Secretary for Administration
Succeeded by:
Donald Tsang

Template:End box Template:Wikiquotezh:陈方安生pl:Anson Chan


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