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Anson Chan Retains Links To Tobacco Industry

Mary Ann Benitez – SCMP

Updated on Feb 24, 2008

Anson Chan Fang On-sang has maintained ties to a luxury goods group despite quitting as a director before she was elected as a legislator last year because of its links to the tobacco industry.

The former chief secretary remains on the advisory council of a fund management company whose investors include Compagnie Financiere Richemont, from which she resigned in September after the South China Morning Post inquired about her links to the tobacco industry.

Richemont said at the time that her continued participation on the board would be “incompatible” with her role as a legislator if elected.

But Mrs Chan’s recently released declaration of interests shows she is a member of the advisory council of the General Enterprise Management Services (Gems), which also has ties to the tobacco industry.

As well as Richemont – which holds a 19.2 per cent interest in British American Tobacco – Gems investors include J apan Tobacco, the world’s third-biggest tobacco company.

Asked about it, Mrs Chan defended her role, saying it was in an advisory capacity, and she was not on the management board. But the revelation brought calls from the legislator for the medical sector, Kwok Ka-ki, and a former medical legislator for her to resign the post.

Gems is an investment fund company founded by Simon Murray, the former Hutchison taipan, who is a board member of Richemont.

Mrs Chan is being paid as an advisory council member, but she declined to say how much. A statement from Mrs Chan’s office said she was “not involved with any day-to-day operations or investment decisions of the company”.

Her responsibilities included giving advice on “the macro political and economic environment of Hong Kong, nothing more”.

The Gems advisory council is chaired by Lord Powell of Bayswater, a former adviser to British prime ministers Margaret Thatcher and John M ajor. Other council members are former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, Christie’s chairman Patricia Barbizet, and the former chairman of the board of management of DaimlerChrysler, Jurgen Schrempp.

Mr Kwok said: “If she is paid, then she needs to decline it. She should let the people know what is behind it.”

Former legislator Lo Wing-lok – who ran against Mrs Chan in the contest to represent the pan-democratic camp in the Hong Kong Island by-election – said he hoped she would resign from Gems, even if her links with the tobacco industry were indirect.

“I won’t challenge her integrity, that would be a matter for God to decide,” Dr Lo said. “But even indirect connections should be terminated.”

Clear the Air, an anti-tobacco lobby group, said it regretted Mrs Chan’s association with the tobacco industry, adding that she “has seemingly been incapable of completely severing her ties with an industry that the WHO confirms to threaten Hong Kong’s and the world’s public health”.

“Clear the Air opines that no Legco members should have directorships or other connections in organisations which might possibly cause a conflict of interest with the impartial duties, ethics and voting of a Legco member.”

Anthony Hedley, anti-tobacco advocate and chair professor of the department of community medicine at the University of Hong Kong, said he was more concerned that there were tobacco executives in other areas. He was referring to Anthony Lau Chun-hon, formerly general manager of Philip Morris Singapore who is now executive director of the Tourism Board; Philip Ho Wing-hong, BAT’s head of local corporate and regulatory affairs who is on the Central Policy Unit; and Charles Ho Tsu-kwok, chairman of the Hong Kong Tobacco Company, who is on the Bauhinia Foundation.

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