With July 1st just around the corner, Chief Executive-designate Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is busy putting together her cabinet.
Although old faces are likely to dominate the incoming administration, some new faces are also expected in her governing team.
Among them is Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee, the incumbent undersecretary for food and health, who is seen succeeding Dr. Ko Wing-man as the bureau’s next chief.
That the incoming leader is allowing Ko to go and didn’t even bother to persuade him to stay, according to sources, provides a stark contrast to her apparent eagerness and aggressive effort to keep Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung in her team.
This has raised some eyebrows not only within the Food and Health Bureau but also in medical circles as well.
Ko, who is among the very few senior officials in the current administration with high public approval ratings, has been held in high regard by his colleagues and members of the health sector over the years, largely because of his high level of competence, charisma and gentle character.
In a sense, he has remained the heart and soul of the Food and Health Bureau who is able to inspire his colleagues and command respect across the political spectrum.
There is talk, in fact, that some officials in the bureau are dismayed that the incoming chief executive has given him the cold shoulder.
The rumor is that Lam is determined to let go of Ko, regardless of his popularity and competence, because there has been bad blood between her and doctors.
This ill feeling toward doctors, it is said, dates back to the 1980s when she was serving as deputy director of the Department of Health.
According to the rumors, she had a serious difference of opinion with members of the medical sector in the course of drafting a blueprint on how to enhance medical services for the grassroots, and didn’t get along with the doctors who advised her on the plan.
Some even said she had old scores to settle with several leading figures in the sector, hence her holding a grudge against them.
As far as Prof. Sophia Chan is concerned, basically everybody who has ever worked with her would agree that she is a very nice and approachable person.
However, some in the medical sector have raised doubts about whether she is qualified and convincing enough to lead the Food and Health Bureau and oversee the entire public health service system.
They point to the fact that Chan began her career as a nurse, not as a properly trained doctor, which raises the question of whether she would be able to gain respect and recognition from the medical sector, in which seniority and qualifications count a lot.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 25
Translation by Alan Lee
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