Council of Social Service chief Christine Fang considers next role

Christine Fang is not interested in an Exco role. The departing Council of Social Service chief would rather be a social worker again

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 June, 2013, 3:47am

The Hong Kong Council of Social Service's departing chief executive says she will not consider joining the Executive Council and is thinking of going back to frontline work as a social worker.

Christine Fang Meng-sang, 55, who officially resigned from the post last week to share her "third age" with her recently retired husband, said she wanted to "do something that is not for my career or livelihood".

Asked if she would consider joining the Executive Council if invited, she said: "I have never considered it and I will not consider it. My strength is to be in contact with the grass roots, to be a bridge between them and the government, not to be inside the government."

Fang noted different attitudes to social welfare in the three governments she has worked with.

Tung Chee-hwa showed that he cared, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen focused on economic development while Leung Chun-ying, an initial disappointment, was now willing to listen.

Tung had asked to meet her to discuss issues like social cohesion and poverty relief, but "ideas have to get off the ground".

By contrast there had been no formal dialogue between Tsang's government and the welfare sector in his five years as chief.

"They saw money spent on social welfare as an expense. We kept telling them that it's an investment," she said.

As for Leung, Fang said she was a little disappointed in his first policy address as it deviated from his election manifesto. But his government had been doing practical work and was more willing to listen.

Leung was criticised by welfare groups after the address for not introducing promised new ways to redistribute resources and address an ageing society.

Looking back on her work, she said she had no regrets about not seeing the government set a poverty line in her 12 years as head of the umbrella organisation for more than 400 welfare groups, saying it was not important whether she was involved.

But she did regret not being able to resolve conflicts over resources allocation to non-government organisations.

One of her most unhappy experiences was losing in the Legislative Council election for the welfare constituency in 2004.

"I was unhappy not because I lost, but because I found that I was disconnected from frontline workers," she said. "I learned to be more humble. What I see as good may not be good after all."

She said that after 12 years it was "about time" to retire. "Being in a position for too long, you begin to have blind spots."

The trigger was her lawyer husband's decision to retire after 32 years. "We want to proceed to 'the third age' together," Fang said. "The third stage after study and work, and before reaching the age that I have to be taken care of."

Fang, who leaves at the end of this year, is jumping out of her comfort zone. "To wake up and have no work to go to, meet people and have no name cards to give out, it's quite scary."

She has no concrete plans, although returning to frontline work as a social worker would be one of her considerations.

But she did reveal one challenging short-term project she has planned: organising a family trip to the soccer World Cup in Brazil next year.