09/11/2007, 00.00
HONG KONG – CHINA
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Anson Chan to run for office at a crucial time in Hong Kong’s history

The popular former chief secretary explains that the next few months are crucial for Hong Kong democracy and universal suffrage. She plans to get Beijing’s support and promote pro-democracy movement.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Former Chief Secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang in a press conference on Tuesday morning confirmed she would stand as a candidate for the Hong Kong Island seat in the Legislative Council (LegCo) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR). She thus ended speculation about her intentions, reversing previous statements in which she said she had no intention of running.

“It was not part of my plan to adopt a higher public profile,” Ms Chan said. But the considerable public support she received, “particularly in the past 10 days,” led her to change her mind.

“We are in the midst of a very important public consultation on the green paper on constitutional reform,” she said.

The green paper includes proposals by the current executive with regard to constitutional reforms and involves public consultation.

“The whole question of universal suffrage . . . and the attitude of the government going up in the consultation, “ are factors that “have led me to take up this particular challenge,” she said.

“If I can be selected as a legislator, I hope to do my best in the Legislative Council to promote the development of democracy,” she said, noting that she understood the difficulties facing the government and the importance of its relationship with Beijing.

“Gaining the trust of the central government is crucial in achieving universal suffrage and promoting the democratic movement of Hong Kong,” she added.

Anson Chan, 67, 39 of which as a civil servant and politician, is Catholic and was the first woman and the first Chinese person to become chief secretary.

The last British governor, Chris Patten, appointed her to her post in 1992 and she continued under the first Chinese-appointed chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa.

She resigned in 2001 but has retained a strong following among Hong Kong people for her principled attitude, intelligence and efficiency.

People in the Hong Kong SAR have always hoped she might become chief executive on day, especially after the failure of the Tung administration.

She has steadfastly defended Hong Kong’s autonomy on the bases of the Basic Law and Beijing’s One Country-Two Systems principle.

After years of silence she re-emerged in 2005 as a pro-democracy activist and in 2006 set up a group for constitutional reform in order to achieve universal suffrage by 2012.

Despite requests by pro-democracy parties, she turned down an offer to run for the chief executive position in the 2007 election because, in her opinion, the electoral process is not sufficiently democratic since it is based on a 800-member election committee, mostly hand-picked by Beijing rather than Hong Kong’s six million people.

In the preparatory phase for the green paper she proposed to broaden the functional constituencies representing business and professional interests—they elect half of the seats—as a first step towards their abolition by 2016. The government turned down her proposal alleging it was too cumbersome.

She has become a vocal critic of Hong Kong’s system of government, calling it a mixture of confusion and procrastination.

She also reminded the current Chief Executive Tsang Yam-kuen that in the last election campaign he had promised to take into account voters’ points of view and refer them to the central government.

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