INTERVIEW | Former Chief Secretary of Hong Kong Anson Chan speaks with ABC Lateline about the future of the territory under Chinese rule


Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcast: 11/10/2016

Reporter: Emma Alberici

–>> Former Chief Secretary of Hong Kong Anson Chan and Founding Chairman of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party Martin Lee are delivering a speech on Thursday 13 October at the University of Sydney: Hong Kong and Mainland China: contested realities, future visions


EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: She’s known as the ‘Iron Butterfly’. Anson Chan was the first woman and first Chinese appointed to the role of Chief Secretary of Hong Kong, back when the city was under British rule.

She was seen as a symbol of stability when China kept her on as Hong Kong’s top civil servant, after taking control almost 20 years ago.

But since her retirement in 2001, Ms Chan’s relationship with the mainland has soured.

She’s accused Beijing of encroaching on the rights of Hong Kong’s people and she’s been a defender of the ‘one country, two systems’ concept, which would see Hong Kong remain autonomous.

China has labelled Anson Chan a trouble-maker and a traitor for expressing those views in the United States.

She says China’s influence in Hong Kong should be seen as a warning to Australia and to the region.

Anson Chan will address the National Press Club on Thursday, alongside the founding chairman of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, Martin Lee.

She joins me now from Canberra.

Anson Chan, thank you very much for your time.


EMMA ALBERICI: What is the message you have come to Australia to deliver?

ANSON CHAN: I want to withdraw Australia’s attention to what is happening in our part of the world.

In particular, to what extent China is honouring its promises to the people of Hong Kong about a high degree of autonomy and Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong.

What we have seen in the run-up to the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China is a steady erosion of one country, two systems; a steady erosion of our lifestyle and core values and the number of pillars of civil society that we can look at that demonstrates this.

I’m not here to give false evidence. I am simply reflecting what is happening in Hong Kong in the hope that Hong Kong’s treatment at the hands of China will give Australia some indication of how it should or ought to be dealing with China.

EMMA ALBERICI: What do you suspect or fear is Beijing’s long-term objective for Hong Kong?

ANSON CHAN: It is a little difficult to see right now but it does appear that in recent years there is a hardening of attitude. Whether this is shared by all the top leadership or not, I don’t know.

But certainly every indication is, that there is a desire to rewrite the basic law, to claw back on rights and freedoms and we see this reflected in a series of events and incidents.

You look at press freedom. In the year 2002 Hong Kong was number 18 in the index compiled by Reporters without Frontiers. This year we have fallen to number 69.

Definitely there is more self censorship, reporters are being attacked and some very, very viciously.

This causes concern, it should cause concern also to the business sector because if there is no freedom of the press and no free flow of information, surely that is not conducive to the business environment.

We look at academic freedom. In my own alma mater, the University of Hong Kong, there has been political interference in academic autonomy and institutional autonomy.

All these worry Hong Kong people, particularly the younger generation because they are looking at their future beyond the year 2047 when the one country, two systems concept is supposed to end.

At the rate of deterioration that we are seeing, I think you do not have to wait until 2047 for one country, two systems to exist only in name.

EMMA ALBERICI: You were quoted today as warning of a Chinese infiltration of Australia.

What did you mean by that?

ANSON CHAN: I going by our experience in Hong Kong. In recent years we have seen increasing blatant interference from the liaison office which is central government organ stationed in Hong Kong.

In accordance with our mini constitution, the basic law, the liaison office is not supposed to have any role to play in the internal administration of Hong Kong.

So why is it that they make it their business now to comment on all and sundry?

We see infiltration of the Communist Party into almost every level of Hong Kong society.

Whether you’re talking about academic institutions, you’re talking about social and community organisations. All these are definitely in breach of one country, two systems.

EMMA ALBERICI: But you were quoted today as warning against China’s, warning of China’s infiltration of Australia and I wonder what you meant by that.

ANSON CHAN: Well, I read in your newspapers that there is concern. For example, in education, in the political field that Chinese money may be influencing the behaviour of certain sectors of the community.

This is what we have already seen in Hong Kong.

For example, the Communist Party money buys most of the media outlets so that today in Hong Kong there are very few local newspapers that are truly independent.

EMMA ALBERICI: You don’t suspect that China’s motivations in Australia would be anything like that?

ANSON CHAN: I don’t think any country dealing with China should be under any illusion as to the objectives of the Communist Party leadership.

They are very long-term visioned and you already, to some extent, see some degree of infiltration. We have seen, of course, much more at very, very close quarters.

EMMA ALBERICI: There is currently debate in this country about the appropriateness of Chinese state enterprises donating to Australian politicians. What is your view on that?

ANSON CHAN: I can understand that in an open, pluralistic society like Australia, there is concern that you deal with a China where the line between state ownership and private ownership is a very blurred and movable line.

You are dealing with a country that does not share Australia’s core values. So these must be a concern in terms of looking at Australia’s own security interests, moral interests and moral concerns.

EMMA ALBERICI: What do you hope to achieve from your visit with the Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, this week?

ANSON CHAN: First of all I would like to tell the Foreign Minister exactly how well or not well one country, two systems is being implemented.

When the joint declaration was signed by Britain and China in 1984, Australia together with many other countries welcomed the joint declaration as a unique formula for solving a problem left behind by history.

Australia has huge stakes in Hong Kong not only in terms of trade and investment but in its people to people links.

So you do have an interest in seeing China make a success of one country, two systems. That is good not just for Hong Kong but I suggest also good for China and for Australia and for the rest of the world.

EMMA ALBERICI: And just very briefly, do you think Australia can influence that?

ANSON CHAN: Yes, I think Australia should stay firm on its values and on its principles. That is the basis for developing its relationship with China.

EMMA ALBERICI: Anson Chan, we will have to leave it there, thank you.

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Originally published on ABC Lateline