Stephen Lam swaps politics for theology

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 May, 2012, 12:00am


Chief Secretary Stephen Lam Sui-lung says he is not interested in joining the new government. Instead, he has a higher calling.

Lam said during a radio interview yesterday that on separate occasions the central government and chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying had asked about his intentions to stay in the government. But the devout Protestant said he would study theology at Oxford University.

'I decided with my wife many years ago we would spend a year overseas,' he said.

'I have been accepted to read a theological course at Oxford University in the last few days ... I am turning a new leaf after over 30 years of government service.'

He will do a one-year certificate in theological and pastoral studies at Wycliffe Hall, beginning in September.

Lam, who has consistently ranked the least popular minister in Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's administration in many public polls, will end his tenure as chief secretary on June 30.

A University of Hong Kong poll released last month saw his popularity rating slide to 36.7 marks out of 100, barely half of the 60.3 marks enjoyed by Secretary for Justice Wong Yan-lung.

Lam (pictured) brushed aside speculation that he was not being considered as a minister in Leung's cabinet.

'As a person you have to know your position,' said Lam. 'I believe this is the right time to leave the political scene.'

He said both Leung and central government officials had asked about his intentions after the election in March, and he told them of his desire to study overseas.

While he did not disclose his long-term plan after his studies, ministers have taken similar paths in the past before returning to politics.

Former security secretary Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee formed the Savantas Policy Institute think tank after completing her master studies at Stanford University in the United States.

She is now a lawmaker and chairwoman of the New People's Party. Lam would not comment yesterday on whether he would return to public service after completing his studies.

Lam joined the government in 1978 and has steadily climbed up the civil service ladder. Prior to reaching the No 2 position in the government last September - vacated when Henry Tang Ying-yen launched his failed chief executive bid - he had served as the constitutional affairs secretary.

In this post, he had to handle a series of sensitive topics including the controversial electoral reforms and a proposal to scrap Legislative Council by-elections.