Lily Yam denies rift with Tung

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 June, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 June, 2002, 12:00am

The outgoing environment and food chief, Lily Yam Kwan Pui-ying, yesterday sought to play down controversy over her departure as she prepared to quit the Government after 33 years.

Mrs Yam said she had 'worked well' with both Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa and former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang.

'Our characters [hers and Mr Tung's] are very similar,' she said, while remaining tight-lipped on the new ministerial system.

Mrs Yam caused a stir in April when she announced her decision to quit one week before Mr Tung unveiled details of the ministerial system. She will begin her pre-retirement leave on Saturday and then travel to Europe.

Speculation has been rife that she was not on good terms with Mr Tung after she wept in the legislature after announcing her retirement. She had also said she would no longer be a 'barking dog'.

Mrs Yam told reporters at a farewell media session yesterday she wept because of her 'deep affection for Hong Kong'.

The senior official, nicknamed the 'iron butterfly' for her tough style, was the first - and the last - secretary for environment and food hygiene. The two portfolios in the bureau set up in 2000 will be split and merge with other bureaus under the new system.

'The Environment and Food Bureau is my baby. It took me about six months to prepare for the new bureau,' she said.

'We have learned a lot from the 1997 bird flu that helps us handle the recent outbreaks. My 2.5 years in the post were the most memorable [of my career], such as handling the bird flu outbreaks,' she said.

She maintained there would be a new outbreak of bird flu if the poultry industry refused to change.

On the new littering and spitting fine system, she said: 'I am happy it will finally take effect - despite some conflicts [between the officers and the litterbugs] - it shows our staff have taken their duties seriously.'