I did not use the word 'fire', says Fanny Law

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 May, 2007, 12:00am

Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, former permanent secretary for education and manpower, yesterday switched from saying 'no recollection' to a definite 'no' when asked if she told a long-time friend to fire a Hong Kong Institute of Education lecturer.

Benjamin Yu SC, counsel for the commission of inquiry into alleged government interference in the institute's internal affairs, said Mrs Law had testified on Wednesday she did not remember asking Magdalena Mok Mo-ching during a phone call in December 2003 to fire then-lecturer Ip Kin-yuen for writing articles criticising education policies.

'But you cannot say you have not used the word 'fire'?' Mr Yu asked.

'I am mindful that I should not put myself to a position of agreeing with [Professor Mok] if I have no recollection of saying that,' she replied.

Professor Mok, who was principal lecturer in the department of educational psychology, counselling and learning needs at the HKIEd, has testified she told Mrs Law she was in no position to fire Mr Ip because they were in different departments.

Mr Yu asked Mrs Law to accept that she might sometimes regret things she had said without having properly thought them through. He reminded her of the incident in January 2006 when she denied the education reforms had led to the suicide of two teachers.

She was reported saying: 'If their death is related to the education reforms, then why only two teachers [committed suicide]?'

'I regretted it. I apologised the following day,' she said yesterday.

Mrs Law said she had called up the principals of the schools to find out the reasons for the tragedies. 'I knew exactly why. It had nothing to do with the education reforms. I was telling the truth,' she said.

The counsel suggested that although it was not rational for Mrs Law to tell Professor Mok, her secondary school classmate for seven years, to fire Mr Ip, it could be something she said 'in a fit of anger'. Mrs Law testified earlier she was upset and angry with Mr Ip for revealing their private phone conversation in a newspaper article on December 18, 2003. She said she called Professor Mok to get a sympathetic hearing.

But Professor Mok alleged that Mrs Law ordered her to dismiss Mr Ip for criticising education reforms in his articles, using the word 'fire'.

After Mr Yu repeatedly challenged Mrs Law on her failure to dismiss Professor Mok's allegation as 'wholly wrong', she said: 'Then I would really say I did not use the word 'fire'. 'I did not in all seriousness order her to fire Mr Ip. That's not possible. That's not achievable.' She added: 'I marvel with the way she could come up with all these exact wordings, words ... which I would not use.'

The counsel asked her why Professor Mok would fabricate evidence against her. Mrs Law said she had her own theory but did not want to use it against her former classmate.

Mr Yu also asked Mrs Law about a cocktail lunch she attended in Toronto in 2000. Institute vice-president Bernard Luk Hung-kay has testified Mrs Law told him at the lunch Hong Kong teachers were 'all so stupid'.

Mrs Law said: 'I would strongly deny it.' But yesterday she admitted she had rung up academics who wrote negatively about education reforms, urging them to present them with a more positive view.

Institute president Paul Morris has testified that Mrs Law had told him to dismiss four academics, including Mr Ip, for publicly criticising education policies.

The inquiry continues today.