The woman who has spent more than 30 years at the forefront of the fight to close the gap between the haves and have-nots has announced she is not only stepping down as chief executive of the Council of Social Service, but is quitting all her public posts by the end of the year.
However, Christine Fang Meng-sang, 55, declared she was not retiring. "There are things that I need to do, in my mission to help the underprivileged," she said. "I will continue."
Fang was speaking at a forum on poverty organised in Kwun Tong by several non-governmental organisations.
Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, who was attending the event, said he was shocked by Fang's news. "She is a hard act to follow … She is a real talent and a real professional. It is a great loss to the welfare sector."
Fang said she officially resigned from her post as chief executive of the council on Monday, after 12 years in the job. It is one of Hong Kong's oldest and most respected charities - an umbrella group of more than 400 NGOs that provide 90 per cent of social services in the city.
She will go before the year is out, and quit all her other public posts - including terms at the population steering committee and the Housing Authority - at the same time. "It is not an easy decision, but I think there are priorities and choices in life that you have to make," Fang said. She cited her husband's retirement this year as a reason behind her decision.
She said the council had put together a team to search for her successor and the hope is to be able to name the new chief executive by September. "Most of the work of the council is already well established, including co-operation with the government," she said, insisting her resignation would not affect its operations.
Regarding her successors in her other posts, Fang said she would work with the chairpersons to find replacements.
Cheung said he hoped Fang would continue to act as a consultant and adviser on welfare-related issues.
"I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Christine," he said. "Her work in the past 12 years can be clearly seen. She played an instrumental role in forging partnerships with the government, and also providing very good advice and counsel."