Immigration boss speaks out

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 July, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 July, 1996, 12:00am

Laurence Leung Ming-yin revealed last night he stepped down as director of immigration because of mental exhaustion partly provoked by the 1993 murder of his daughter in Canada.

Commenting for the first time on his shock departure, announced on Saturday, Mr Leung said he was keen to dispel rumours about his 'premature' retirement.

There has been speculation in recent days that the Government asked Mr Leung to resign and that he was taking a job with pro-China businessman Tsui Tsin-tong.

But, looking frail and tired outside his Shouson Hill home, Mr Leung insisted he had decided to go for 'personal, mainly health reasons', as stated on Saturday by the Government.

'Since my daughter's death, it's been psychologically draining. Work pressure has been very great,' he said before leaving for dinner with his family.

'I have no plans to join any private company. In short, I have no plans to do anything at all, just recover my health.' Mr Leung's daughter, Sylvia Leung Sze-hon, was killed in Vancouver in 1993. Her killer has not been caught.

Mr Leung, 55, also dismissed rumours he was a Canadian passport holder, a factor that could have barred him from serving after the handover.

'I have no foreign passport. I have a BNO (British National Overseas) passport and after 1997 I will remain in Hong Kong,' he said.

The Government also moved yesterday to dismiss speculation surrounding Mr Leung's departure.

Secretary for the Civil Service Lam Woon-kwong said his department had received no application from Mr Leung seeking to work outside the Government.

He also denied Mr Leung had been told to quit.

Directorate-level civil servants normally have to give a year's notice if they intend to take early retirement.

In Mr Leung's case this was waived because of 'special circumstances', and he was allowed to begin pre-retirement leave immediately.

Mr Lam said there were precedents to Mr Leung's case and it was 'entirely reasonable' for the 12-month rule to be waived.

Executive Councillors, apparently as curious about Mr Leung's departure as the rest of Hong Kong, raised the matter at their meeting yesterday, but got short shrift from acting Governor Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.

The Financial Secretary, standing in for Chris Patten and Chief Secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang, reiterated that Mr Leung had left for personal reasons and would say no more.

However, officials seem certain to face a tougher examination at tomorrow's meeting of the Legislative Council's public services committee.

Mr Leung is the third top civil servant to quit this year, sparking fears about a continued pre-handover exodus of senior officials.

Panel chairman Ip Kwok-him said the Government had to explain to them its criteria for accepting 'personal reasons' as justification for early retirement.

Legislator James To Kun-sun feared the 12-month waiver given to Mr Leung might lead officials to abuse the system.

Chinese officials had little to say on the matter yesterday. Senior mainland Joint Liaison Group representative Chen Zuo'er said he was sorry to see Mr Leung go because of the valuable work he had done.

China had not been informed in advance by Britain of his resignation, he said.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office said it had heard nothing about Mr Leung's successor.

Director of Industry Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and Deputy Secretary for Security Carrie Yau Tsang Ka-lai are the favourites.