Regina Ip - Legislator
Life has thrown more than its fair share of challenges at Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee. In the face of adversity and throughout her life, she has drawn inspiration from the motto of her school, St Stephen's Girls' College, 'In Faith Go Forward'.
'The toughest year in my personal life was 1997, when my husband had terminal cancer of the liver and, as director of immigration, I had to complete my duties in ensuring a smooth handover in the immigration [and] nationality area,' says Ip, who is now a legislator and the chairwoman of the New People's Party, formed earlier this year. 'I strove hard to complete all my duties, whether towards my family or towards my community.'
After joining the government as an administrative officer in 1975, Ip rose quickly through the ranks, becoming known for her no-nonsense style and chalking up a series of notable achievements. She was the first female director of immigration and, after the handover, the first woman to be appointed as secretary for security in charge of disciplined services and responsible for public safety, security and immigration matters. One of her most remarkable achievements was her transformation from a hardline government official, who tried to push through the highly unpopular proposed national security ordinance - Article 23 - into one of Hong Kong's most popular female politicians.
Career challenges at times led Ip to put her personal life to one side. 'Because of my heavy work responsibilities, I could only do things one at a time,' she recalls. 'I got married late - at the age of 31 - and started my family late, at the ripe old age of 39, with the help of reproductive science.'
As Ip became more senior and widowed, she found it hard to cope with her duties as a high-ranking official and single parent of a young, feisty child. So, she resigned from her position as secretary for security in 2003 'to give myself more space, personal freedom, and, above all, more time to take care of my daughter'.
What followed was a period that was to change not only Ip's way of life but also her way of thinking, as she enrolled in a master's programme at Stanford University in America.
'I was able to detach myself from the local scene and formed fresh perspectives,' she says. 'The learning experience was transformational, as was my experience of starting a new career as a public intellectual and politician after my return to Hong Kong in 2006.'
Part of that transformation, Ip explains, is that she is now able to see things from a different viewpoint, and is now more tolerant of people with different predilections and outlooks from her own. Ip's return to politics ended in defeat by her former boss, Anson Chan Fang On-sang, in a Legislative Council by-election in 2007. But in typical style, she bounced back to win a seat in the same Hong Kong Island constituency the following year.
Among her principles in life, Ip highlights her 'extremely tough work ethic', a strong sense of responsibility and utter honesty in dealing with others.
'I am proud that I have won the respect of thousands who had worked under me in the disciplined services. Many have remained my best friends and most loyal supporters, through thick and thin.'
In her personal life, Ip is proud to have fulfilled her duties towards her parents, her husband and raised her daughter well. She was especially pleased when her daughter graduated with flying colours from her high school in California in 2008, and when she was elected speaker of the undergraduate assembly of the University of Pennsylvania earlier this year.
These days, Ip tries to strike a work-life balance. While she enjoys work, she also exercises regularly, eats healthily and maintains an optimistic outlook. 'I also like helping others,' she says. 'I thank God for helping me whenever I was down and under stress. I never lacked help when I was in need.'