Donald Tsang

Fred Ma quits, reveals he has brain lesions

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 June, 2008, 12:00am

Doctor advises minister to stop work

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Frederick Ma Si-hang has resigned after being diagnosed with brain lesions.

Mr Ma is the first minister to quit mid-term since Donald Tsang Yam-kuen became chief executive in 2005. Mr Tsang accepted his resignation last night.

The 56-year-old father of two said he was stopping work on the advice of his doctor. He is expected to attend a news conference today.

In a statement last night, Mr Ma said: 'I have recently discovered that I have cavernous haemangioma and venous angioma. After discussing with my family, I have decided to step down from my current position.'

Both conditions result from malformation of blood vessels. Patients with such lesions often experience no symptoms, but others may suffer headaches, seizures, paralysis, bleeding in the brain and even death.

Mr Ma said he had tendered his resignation on June 12.

'The chief executive has discussed the matter with me and agreed to forward my resignation to the central people's government for consideration,' Mr Ma said.

Mr Tsang said: 'I have since discussed [the issue] with him in depth twice and fully sympathise with his situation. My heart is with Mr Ma and his family and I wish him a speedy recovery.'

Mr Ma's successor has not been named but a source familiar with the situation said it would be unlikely to be his newly appointed deputy Greg So Kam-leung, a former deputy chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, whose Canadian citizenship has sparked controversy.

Mr So declined to comment.

The source said: 'It is likely to be someone who has worked in the government for a long time and who has worked in the same areas as Mr Ma.' A candidate had been identified, this source said.

Mr Ma recently returned from an Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation Forum meeting in the Peruvian city of Arequipa and a session of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris. He described the trip, which involved 80 hours of flying, as 'better than a slimming programme from hell'.

Last week he attended the eighth anniversary of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing and two weeks ago was a guest at a Russian national day cocktail party.

Legislator Chim Pui-chung, who represents stockbrokers in the Legislative Council, said: 'We hope Mr Ma will get well soon. He has done a great job for the financial markets in Hong Kong.'

Executive Council convenor Leung Chun-ying wished Mr Ma a full recovery and said he had made great contributions to Hong Kong's economic development.

Executive Council member Henry Fan Hung-ling, who is also chairman of the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority, said: 'Mr Ma is one of the very few from the business sector to have successfully switched to full-time public service, and it wasn't plain sailing.'

Liberal Party vice-chairwoman Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee said Mr Ma had worked smoothly with political parties. Democrat Lee Wing-tat said: 'He is among the few ministers who are willing to listen sincerely.'

Civic Party leader Audrey Eu Yuet-mee echoed Mr Lee, saying that the minister was 'one of the secretaries you can really speak to'.