Veteran Hong Kong businessman Henry Fan surprise pick to take charge of city’s ailing Hospital Authority

Gary Cheung

Former executive councillor and veteran businessman Henry Fan Hung-ling will take charge of Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority in December, the Post has learned.

Fan’s appointment, which will be officially announced on Thursday, is something of a surprise as he was only appointed a member of the authority in December 2018, and has no medical background.

“Health care is one of the deep-rooted problems in Hong Kong. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor wants Fan to take a fresh look at it from a new perspective,” a source said.

Another source said the 71-year-old would succeed Professor John Leong Chi-yan, a renowned doctor and scientist, as authority chairman on December 1.

The Hospital Authority faces numerous challenges including an acute manpower shortage. Photo: Felix Wong

On Tuesday, Fan declined to comment on whether he would take up the post. The authority declined to comment on the appointment, beyond noting that the decision lay with the chief executive.

Responsible for managing Hong Kong’s public hospitals, the authority celebrates its 30th anniversary next year. But it is facing challenges, such as an acute manpower shortage and a lack of space to grow.

Fan, the older brother of executive councillor Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, is a member of the chief executive’s Council of Advisers on Innovation and Strategic Development, and sits on the boards of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority and the Financial Services Development Council.

A barrister by profession, he was invited to help Larry Yung Chi-kin – whose father the “red capitalist” Rong Yiren became China’s vice-president in 1993 – set up Citic Pacific in 1987. It was among the first mainland firms to be established in Hong Kong.

Fan became Citic managing director in the 1990s, and reached the apex of his career when he was appointed to the Executive Council by chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in October 2005.

Dubbed the “King of Public Office”, Fan took on numerous civic duties, such as chairing the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority (MPFA) and the standing committee on disciplined services salaries and conditions of service. He was also director of the Hong Kong stock exchange.

In 2007, while chairing the MPFA, he criticised the fees charged by MPF providers – which ranged from 0.41 per cent to 3.87 per cent – as too high. He said letting employees choose their MPF provider would force the trustees to cut fees.

Hospital Authority urged to review system and cut through red tape

In 2008, Citic’s six-week delay in announcing its HK$14.7 billion losses in foreign-exchange dealings sparked a public outcry. Fan resigned as managing director in April the following year.

In April 2017, the Market Misconduct Tribunal cleared Fan, Yung and another three former directors of Citic of misconduct, and of providing misleading information to the investing public over the foreign-exchange loss.

Later that year he was appointed to a task force reviewing self-financing of post-secondary education, which studied the role of private tertiary institutions.

Civic Party lawmaker Dr Kwok Ka-ki said he was very worried about the decision to appoint Fan, given his relative inexperience at the authority.

“To manage such a large administrative body, you need not only an administrator, but also someone with the understanding,” Kwok said.

Kwok believed Fan’s appointment was a political one and largely connected to his powerful sibling.

Dr Ho Chung-ping, president of the Medical Association, said he did not know Fan well, but thought his appointment was reasonable.

Ho said Fan’s lack of medical experience was not an issue, as the day-to-day running of the authority was handled by the CEO, Dr Tony Ko, rather than the chairman.

More from South China Morning Post:

This article Veteran Hong Kong businessman Henry Fan surprise pick to take charge of city’s ailing Hospital Authority first appeared on South China Morning Post

For the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2019.