Doctor of Laws
"Men in great place are thrice servants: servants of the sovereign or state, servants of fame, and servants of business", thus wrote Francis Bacon. Bacon was on the syllabus when our graduand, the Hon Mrs Chan, read English in this University over three decades ago. Contrary to what Bacon has written, Hong Kong's top civil servant, Anson Chan, has shown that she can serve without loss of liberty or integrity, without fear or favour, that she can hold her high position with dignity and confidence. In a recent speech she summarised her philosophy of life and of high office by quoting Abraham Lincoln: "I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed but I am bound to live up to what light I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong".
Few are blessed with the good fortune of having careers which are wholly fulfilling and satisfying. Among the few so blessed is Anson Chan, who counts joining the Hong Kong civil service as a cadet officer (now an Administrative Officer) in 1962 as certainly one of the best decisions she has ever made in life. Born in Shanghai, she moved with her family to Hong Kong in 1948. She received a BA (Hons) degree in English Language and Literature. It was in this very hall that the degree was conferred. Her early aspiration was to be a social worker. To that end, in preparation for further studies, she worked briefly for the Po Leung Kuk. Her original career plans were laid aside when she responded to an advertisement for cadet officers. Her rise through the ranks was rapid; she held many senior positions in the Administration dealing with finance, economics, commerce and industry and social services. Indeed, as things turned out, the civil service's gain was not to be entirely social welfare's loss. She has served as Director of Social Welfare in the course of her postings within the government.
Mrs Chan has also held the post of Secretary for the Civil Service. Between 1987 and 1993 she was Secretary for Economic Services, a cabinet-level post which gave her responsibilities for overseeing Hong Kong's physical infrastructure, including ambitious port and airport facilities, the liberalisation of Hong Kong's telecommunications market, tourism, energy, food supplies and the monitoring of public utility companies.
Mrs Chan scored two notable firsts when she was appointed Chief Secretary of the Hong Kong Government in November 1993. As principal advisor to the Governor and head of Hong Kong's 190000 - strong civil service, she is responsible for the effective implementation of the whole range of the Government policies. She broke a 150-year-tradition in being the first Chinese Chief Secretary. All previous incumbents have been British. She is also the first woman. Breaking new ground and scoring firsts is not new to Anson Chan. She was first woman director of a government department, first woman head of a policy branch, first woman to head the civil service, first woman civil servant appointed to the Legislative Council.
Asian women have suffered for countless years not just from unfair treatment but also unfair literary and media stereotyping. They are finally emerging as outstanding leaders in the region and internationally. To Anson Chan the women of Hong Kong can point with pride. Her qualities of leadership have won recognition beyond our shores, as exemplified by the conferring in September 1995 of the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa on her by Tufts University, Massachusetts, for her "many achievements, and for (her) adherence to the ideals of fairness and openness in government". She has, in addition, won many leadership awards.
China has a notorious tradition of powerful women who have risen to power on the coat-tails (or robe-tails, as the case may be) of their husbands, but Anson Chan has risen through her own abilities. After initial encounters with mild sexism she found the Hong Kong civil service to be a meritocracy, and her abilities were quickly recognised and rewarded.
Her career, which spans over thirty years, coincides with a time of great change in Hong Kong and its administration, and she has consciously adapted to these changing times. She reached her present position at a most significant time in Hong Kong's history and her ability, strength of character and faith in Hong Kong's future have been- and are - invaluable assets to the community at this challenging time. There is no doubting her conviction when she predicts that two years from now, in 1998, we, the people of Hong Kong, will have reached the "sunny uplands" of stability and prosperity under the framework of "one country, two systems", having left behind us the dark and uncertain terrain of the transition. She exhorts the community to have confidence in itself and to take the fullest advantage of the opportunities to shape its destiny. She has throughout her career not wavered in her loyalty to the people of Hong Kong, and it is her fondest wish that she will be able to continue to be of service to them.
In addition to having achieved outstanding success in her profession, Anson Chan also enjoys success in her personal life. Her upbringing and the closeness of her family ties have done a great deal to shape her character and beliefs, and they are a continuous source of strength to her. If in her courage and dedication to duty she can be compared to Hua Mulan, the woman warrior, in her devotion to family she can be compared to the mother of the philosopher Mencius. Inculcated with traditional Chinese virtues she has never allowed her career to work to the detriment of her roles as wife, mother, daughter, sister and now grandmother.
One of Anson Chan's favourite authors is Jane Austen, who has written, "A woman, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can". Fortunately for the community our graduand does not subscribe to this dictum. It is with great pride that the University seeks to honour its own.
Mr Chancellor, for her courage and devotion to duty, for her services to the community, I request you to confer on the Honourable Anson Chan the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa.
Citation written and delivered by Professor Mimi Chan Mei Mei, the Public Orator.