Exiting Hong Kong health minister denies Carrie Lam rift as he reflects on his time in office

Popular official recalls five-year term, from once losing his composure to returning to orthopaedic surgery

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 June, 2017, 12:27am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 June, 2017, 12:33am

Hong Kong’s top health official has denied any discord with the city’s next leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in reflecting on his public career and confirming his departure from the administration in two weeks.

Dr Ko Wing-man, who has consistently had high popularity ratings since he took charge of the Food and Health Bureau in 2012, also revealed he once lost his composure during a political campaign.

“It might have been the time I was most out of control when expressing my emotion, as my core values were being challenged,” he recalled.

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Ko was referring to a community visit he made to promote a deeply divisive political reform plan for the city in 2015. He was seen engaged in a heated row with a man who accused him of “fooling the children” when explaining the proposed election system.

At the end of it, the usually mild-tempered official shouted: “That’s all!” before storming off.

Among the most significant political issues Ko cited as he reflected on his five years in office, he noted the turmoil that ensued from the Occupy Central movement in 2014, when protesters paralysed traffic in the city’s financial district to seek universal suffrage from Beijing.

He said that one day on his way to work his car was blocked by a stranger.

My political ideology was close to CY’s ... It’s true that we have a rather deep relationship
health minister Dr Ko Wing-man, on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying

“I asked him whether I should be targeted because I held a different political opinion and have my way blocked because I am an official.”

And in recalling the government’s bid to pass a medical reform bill resulted in failure in the Legislative Council last year, Ko denied that officials were not adequately prepared. He added that the amended bill this year improved on last year’s offering.

Ko said he planned to resume his profession as an orthopaedic surgeon with a private clinic after July 1.

He explained that his life decisions would not be based on a single factor or person but many considerations.

But he admitted that whether current Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had decided to pursue an additional five-year term had factored into his decision to move on.

“My political ideology was close to CY’s,” he said. “It’s true that we have a rather deep relationship, so he would exert great influence on me.” They both felt closer to working-class people, he added.

Ko mentioned he has also long been drawn to clinical work yet planned to spend time doing volunteering as well.