Anchor Yourself with a Moral Compass — Dinner with Anson Chan, Former Chief Secretary of HKSAR Government

Sometimes the most meaningful and inspiring conversations happen over casual meals. The Time Auction Blog is a snippet of our meetings with people who have found passion in their life and career, where we get a glimpse into their mentality behind their ventures.

You’d think that after hitting numerous historic milestones as former Chief Secretary that Anson Chan, the trusted ‘face of Hong Kong’, would pride herself in putting her work first throughout the years. Far from it. “I have never felt that my career is the most important thing. I have always felt that my family is the most important.”

From joining the civil service to running for the LegCo, she was advised against taking risks but didn’t back down — believing that we should never underestimate our own ability nor let people’s criticism stop us from doing what we want.

Over dinner, we talked politics and the future of Hong Kong, but Anson also had a lot of advice about other areas of life. In both her roles as a mom and a leader, she stressed the importance of guiding by example, respecting the diverse self-images and principles that people hold, and encouraging others to speak up and stand up on their own two feet.

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What is one habit that has improved significantly your life?

“On the first day of being the Chief Secretary, I decided to have a regular exercise regimen because I knew this was going to be a high-pressure, high-profile job. Exercise helps you physically and mentally, improves your posture, balances and tones out your muscles.

I do 3 different forms of exercise: Aerobics, Taichi and Qigong, and ballroom dancing.

I advise all of you to have some regular exercise. You don’t have to go into weight-lifting, you don’t have to break world records, but doing regular exercise helps you in your work, in your sleep, and in your mind.”

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Do you have a life motto that you live by?

“It is very important for all of us to be comfortable in our own skin. I know who I am and what matters to me. I do not pretend to be anybody else.

When you’re comfortable in your own skin, you don’t feel that you have to compromise your principles to accommodate for other people’s visions.

The second thing is not to think that you know it all. Be prepared to listen to and encourage other people to discuss things with you.

Lastly, your moral compass is your anchor.

I was very fortunate in being brought up in a family where everyone led by example. My mother was my finest role model. She was widowed in her early thirties and left to bring up 8 children — a very daunting task. She had a very strong character, with great generosity. She often said to me, ‘Anson, we have ups and downs in life. But always learn to take a step backward, and look at things with a broader perspective. Then, you’ll be happier and in a position to make a better decision. Never let people’s slight criticisms affect what you want to do.’

My mother also carved out a career for herself as a very distinguished contemporary Chinese artist. Her paintings represent her philosophy of life, which is that the universe is a very big place and there is room for everybody and their different principles. Hold onto what is dear to you. Carve out meaning in your life by doing what you’re interested in.”

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How can someone impress you?

“People with a sense of purpose. I don’t like people who put on a show, who do things they think others will applaud, when they don’t really subscribe to that view.

I like to deal with people who have principles, who are prepared to stand up and defend those principles whatever the personal cost to them.

The course that I have taken has not come without sacrifices. But I feel that it’s worth it because I am firmly wedded to these principles.

If it’s good for me and for the Hong Kong community, then I’m prepared to stand up.”

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Thank you Anson for spending your Friday evening with us, and to everyone who volunteered and took part in raising 303 volunteer hours to Lok Chi Association, St James’ Settlement, Serenity Funeral Co, Bread Angel, Lifelong Animal Protection and more. Special thanks to our Venue Partner The Work Project, Catering Partner Snake Pit and Photographer Ping!

Join us for dinner with Hong Kong’s iconic leaders, visit Time Auction to volunteer and meet inspiring mentors.

A few words from the volunteers:

Stephanie Hung, City University Student

Dear Mrs. Chan, Thank you for sharing with us your experience working in the public service sector. I was deeply impressed by your integrity, righteousness and outspokenness throughout the whole conversation. I have heard a lot of young adults nowadays shying away from engaging in political activities because they may risk not being able to join the government after graduation. But you reminded me that the society nowadays needs people who do not keep their heads down but dare to speak up for injustice. Please continue to be outspoken and have faith in the future of Hong Kong. Thank you once again. Best, Stephanie

Liu Wing Ki, MPhil(Operational Management), HKUST business school

Miss Anson Chan discussed what young people can do to enhance the change of the current government structure, political reform and the implementation of crucial policies against gender discrimination. Many become ignorant after feeling as if their voices have not be heard. But we can definitely make a difference by protesting in a peaceful and lawful manner. She also told us about ‘One Country two system’ which she has been working on to boost Hong Kong rights. ‘One Country two system’ has been the core value of Hong Kong government since the handover of HKSAR to China. She emphasized that the system in Hong Kong was just before the handover, enabling Hong Kong people to get job offers based on their abilities. I agree on that because of the examples in HK government she raised in the meeting. She also suggested doing regular exercise to relieve the stress. To my surprise, we share the same thoughts. Despite having countless research failures, I feel relaxed when doing regular exercise. I was grateful to have met Anson Chan. I hope that I will have more opportunities to meet with Anson Chan in the near future.

Elaine Chan, HKBU Student

Thank you for your generous sharing and it was a fruitful evening. The conservation helped me to develop proper values and directions in life.

Anne Wong, former Private Banker

Thanks Time Auction, it was a remarkable experience for me to meet Mrs Anson Chan in person. This mentorship episode is impactful, broadens one’s scope and knowledge in life, career and politics. Mrs Chan’s open sharing reinforces me to be comfortable in my own skin and always move on by following my moral compass. Salute, Mrs Chan!

Karrance Leung, Marketing

I think she’s really genuine and answered the questions sincerely. I really enjoyed hearing her political views, career and personal life. She really answered all the questions with examples. I want to be a decisive instead of authority rules. She’s super friendly. I will start to deliver democracy message around my community. Thanks Anson for her valuable insights! Thanks Time Auction for organizing it.

This article originally appeared on our blog on Medium:

Updated on 8 April, 2021
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