Me and My Country. No. 7 – Malta’s Mrs Vivien Chan

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Like an Indiana Jones of Honorary Consuls, Vivien Chan discovered an ancient, rare document as part of being the Maltese connection in Hong Kong.


How did you become the Consul General?

Mrs Chan is a veteran among honorary consuls in Hong Kong, having represented Malta for over 18 years. It all began when the Trade Development Council (TDC), by request of the Maltese government, sought a representative for the nation. Her father, successful entrepreneur Dr Chou Wen Hsien, was a friend of an official in the TDC and was asked for help. He suggested his daughter but Mrs Chan demurred. At that time, Mrs Chan has just returned to Hong Kong after decades of stay in Thailand and studies in the United States. She was new to Hong Kong, and so she passed the opportunity to her childhood friend, Mr James Tien, the current LegCo member.

However, Mr Tien was later appointed as LegCo by the colonial government and considered it inappropriate to have two loyalties. He stepped down from being the Honorary Consul of Malta and referred the post back to Mrs Chan. As with many things in life and politics, the ‘temporary’ posting turned out to be enduring and Mrs. Chan has ever since remained in the position.

What are your duties?

Apart from arranging for the visit of Maltese delegations to Hong Kong, Mrs Chan’s biggest responsibility is being a liaison officer between the two states. Mrs Chan has a track record in solving what she called, the “sourcing problems” of Malta businessmen who are looking for suppliers in Hong Kong. And for people in Hong Kong who want to invest and do business in Malta, “we are the bridging office”. A little known fact: The first Hong Kong businessman who invested in Malta was Hopewell’s Gordon Wu who built a hotel there. She spoke highly of Mr. Wu’s business instincts which saw him investing in the Mediterranean island before anybody in Hong Kong did.

Fewer than 80 people in the world were believed to hold the passport at that time.”

Maltese businessmen who have purchased goods in Hong Kong and China don’t always get what they paid for. Another responsibility is be helping businessmen assess the need for filing lawsuits. She also signed off the documents from Marine Department on behalf of the Maltese government for Maltese ships to sailing from Hong Kong.

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What is the most remarkable situation you have come across as part of your Honorary Consul duties?

The distant past will often find ways to connect with the presence. In the case of Mrs Chan, it was the Hong Kong Immigration Department which bridged the two. Five years ago, she was contacted by Immigration Department officers to verify a passport thought to be a Maltese passport. Failing to recognise it, Mrs Chan called up the Foreign Ministry of Malta and the result was a discovery of a rare historical document. It turned out that the passport was issued by the Papal States – a political construct that included all the lands under the jurisdiction of the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. This jurisdiction was created 756 but was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy in 1870. It was not until 1929 when Mussolini signed a treaty that established of the Vatican City State that the Church resumed its sovereignty. Fewer than 80 people in the world were believed to hold the passport at that time.
By the time Ms. Chan caught up with Immigration, they had let the person through and they disappeared with their mystery passport from a state that hadn’t exisited for over 140 years. Either they produced an alternate passport or special (divine?) powers were invoked to let the person pass. We’ll never know.