The undersecretary for financial services and the treasury, Julia Leung Fung-yee, resigned yesterday without giving a reason - the fifth departure of a politically appointed official in Leung Chun-ying's administration.
She will be succeeded on January 1 by James Henry Lau, 63, a former government administrative officer and former executive director of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. It was also announced that the vacancy of undersecretary for development would be filled by engineer Eric Ma Siu-cheung from January 6.
The chief executive dismissed suggestions of low morale in his team and said his government was still able to attract talent. He said Lau's appointment meant the transition would be "completely seamless".
Speaking in Guangxi where he was on an official visit, Leung said of the two appointments: "Our politically appointed team of secretaries, undersecretaries and political assistants is the biggest ever in all government terms.
"What does it show? It shows that many are willing to join our new government and serve society."
Julia Leung, a former executive director of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and former journalist at the Asian Wall Street Journal, was recruited to Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's government in 2008 when it expanded the political appointment system.
Both the chief executive and Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Chan Ka-keung said she was resigning for personal reasons, without elaborating. A government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Julia Leung had indicated to her superior, Chan, her intention to "take a rest" at the end of the last term, but Chan had invited her to continue in the new government for about a year to ensure a smooth transition.
Since the Leung Chun-ying government took over last year, former development secretary Mak Chai-kwong and political assistant Henry Ho Kin-chung have stepped down amid scandals, while two other political assistants, Zandra Mok Yee-tuen and Carmen Cheung Sau-lai, quit citing family reasons.
Lau relinquished his British passport on accepting the job, and Ma, who held an Australian passport, did the same, according to the bureaus.
Although deputy ministers are legally allowed to have right of abode in another country, the foreign passports of some appointees stirred a political controversy in 2008, prompting them to give them up.