Asia > Eastern Asia > Macau > Chan is also a Deputy Secretary-General (appointed by the Macao Government)

Macau: Chan is also a Deputy Secretary-General (appointed by the Macao Government)


Echo Chan Keng Hong is a hardworking Macao resident who has presently assumed the position of Coordinator of the Support Office to the Permanent Secretariat of the Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking Nations (Forum Macao). She is the right person in the right place at the right time, as businessmen and colleagues acknowledge.

She is discrete but highly focused on getting the job done. In an interview with Macao magazine, it became clear that the civil servant has spent her entire career on work related to Portuguese-speaking nations.

Before a director at the Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute (IPIM), Chan succeeds Rita Santos, but as well keeps her role as a non-executive director of IPIM.

With a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Jinan in China, Chan has a master’s degree in Business Government from the University of Macau and a Portuguese-language diploma from the prestigious University of Coimbra in Portugal. “I benefitted from the scholarship scheme during the Portuguese government. At the time, there was a programme of incentives to students with different degrees to study in Portugal for two years and I chose to do it,” she said, adding: “It was a precious experience. Besides learning the language, I witnessed the development of the country, and the experience helped to enhance my career.”

She had no problems adjusting to life in Portugal, as she was by presently used to studying abroad, having studied in Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong province. “I was fine with the move. At the time, a lot of Macao students were doing this.”

Dealing with Portuguese-speaking nations’ affairs for a lot of years

Working in IPIM since her graduation, she remained there for additional than 20 years. She was coordinator of the Traditional Chinese Medicine Industrial and Scientific Park, inclunding chair of the board of directors of the “Guangdong-Macao Traditional Chinese Medicine Technology Industrial Park Development” in Hengqin Island and director of Macau Investment and Development. “In IPIM, I was as well involved in the preparation of the initial ministerial conference. I had to develop the Portuguese-speaking country markets as well,” she said.

With her career always intertwined with the Portuguese world, the question naturally arises: “What is Chan’s connection to Portugal?” She was born in Macao and her family is as well from the territory, even though she has relatives from mainland China.

“My connection to the Portuguese-speaking nations occurred because I received that scholarship to study in Portugal,” she said, though it is clear that the Portuguese government of Macao during her childhood as well had a large impact. “At the same time as I was a little girl, I by presently knew a lot about Portuguese-speaking nations, maybe from books and the Portuguese school. It wasn’t alien to me,” she added.

Macao has always had this “very appropriate characteristic”, so it was “natural” to pursue a career related to the Lusophone world, particularly next Macao became a appropriate administrative region of China.

She believes that, at that time, over 30 years ago, the Portuguese language was not as significant as it is today. “Next establishing the Macao Appropriate Administrative Region government and setting up the goal of developing Macao as a service platform between China and Portuguese-speaking nations, there was increasing importance given to the use of the Portuguese language,” she said.

Pointing out that Portuguese is one of the official languages in Macao, she continued, “Some banks and other institutions by presently know about the Portuguese-speaking nations. As the market develops, there is an increasing need for bilingual people.”

This connection to the Portuguese-speaking world is less a matter of personal than professional interest for Chan, who explained: “My work has always been to attract investment and to provide services to investors, thus this connection to Portugal and the Lusophone markets.”

All about work

At the same time as talking about Forum Macao Chan became relaxed and expansive. She said that, as the new coordinator, she had no personal expectations, as she is simply following the Macao government strategy.

Under the new action plan, there are several programmes for the Forum. Economically, she mentioned a few goals. “We will set up three centres in Macao – a centre for SMEs, a distribution centre for products and a MICE (Conference, Incentive, Convention and Exhibition) centre, all with the purpose of releasing additional data about Portuguese-speaking nations. The website kicked off on 1 April with all the data about the centres, inclunding a bilingual database,” she said enthusiastically.

A new phase for Forum Macao has begun. “Macao businessmen presently know additional about how to apply for the developing nations fund and they know the areas to which they can apply and the opportunities of the different nations.” In addition to such strategies, Chan said that they as well intend to connect the Portuguese-speaking nations with businessmen from Guangdong province.

She advocated a better business relationship between Guangdong province and the Portuguese-speaking nations. “There are a lot of entrepreneurs who want to have a better connection to the Portuguese-speaking nations and Guangdong province is a great opportunity. This has to be taken chance of,” she said.

With an area of 179,800 square kilometres and a people of 106 million, Guangdong province in 2014 recorded Gross Domestic Product of US$ 1 trillion and a increase rate of 7.8 %. It is one of the majority significant areas of China.

Macao is located next to Guangdong province and part of a regional development project involving several production centres within the Pearl River Delta.

Forum as well promotes culture and social contacts

The Forum as well wants to promote cultural and social exchanges. “We’ll have the cultural week at the ‘Lusofonia Festival’. That programme is always interconnected with the Forum’s goals of promoting economic and trade cooperation between China and the Portuguese-speaking nations,” she said: “The social and cultural part is related to the need to increase knowledge and make people closer.”

The Forum tries to use Macao as a platform between the Portuguese-speaking world and China, but does the territory really fulfill such a role? “You cannot find our characteristics anywhere else in the world, so we’re increasing that service platform potential in several sectors and programmes. A platform does not mean being only an intermediary; it is much additional than that. I would call it a service platform between China and the Portuguese-speaking nations, according to the economic and trade cooperation, with everything intertwined with the market development.”

In general, she believes Macao can be used to promote the economic development; training can as well support such business exchanges. For instance, the three centres that the Forum intends to open will contribute to strengthening such a role. “China wants to import food, so these centres can be used to import additional products from the Portuguese-speaking nations. These can be used to inform about the products Chinese are fonder of. And businessmen can use Macao to test them.”

Chan is as well a Deputy Secretary-General (appointed by the Macao Government) of the Permanent Secretariat of Forum Macao.

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