She worked in government for 28 years before falling victim to the public backlash over security laws Her legacy is almost certain to be marked largely by the Article 23 controversy. But when Secretary for Security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee announced her resignation yesterday it marked the end of a diverse 28-year career in public service. Born in the city in 1950 to a trader father and actress mother, she dreamed of being a scholar. In pursuit of this goal, she graduated with first-class honours in literature from the University of Hong Kong and earned a Master of Letters degree from Glasgow University. Seeking steady employment to support her widowed mother, she joined the government in 1975 as an administrative officer in the Civil Service Branch, followed by stints at the Home Affairs Department, New Territories Administration, City and New Territories Administration, Security Branch, Trade Department, the Chief Secretary's Office and the Trade and Industry Branch. In August 1996 she was appointed the first female director of immigration and in July 1998 she became the first female secretary for security, leading one-third of the civil service and 10,000 volunteers. She worked closely with cabinet colleague Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen on getting full British passports for 50,000 Hong Kong families. Mrs Ip was also in the hot seat during the right of abode saga when she was responsible for the unenviable task of determining which families could be reunited on humanitarian grounds and which would be refused permission to stay in the city. She was never hugely popular with the public, but was often credited with having the courage to speak her mind. A survey this year saw Mrs Ip voted the sexiest political figure in Hong Kong, despite frequent mocking references to her hairstyle and dress sense in the media. Media comment on the dress sense of top women officials such as Mrs Ip, former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang and Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie prompted no comment from Mrs Chan or Miss Leung, but attracted a strong backlash from Mrs Ip, who criticised such labelling as sexist. She later said on radio: 'If I could not defend my hairstyle, how could I defend the security of Hong Kong?' But it was the frequent run-ins with legislators and undiplomatic statements about members of the public during the course of the Article 23 debate that dominated the public perception of Mrs Ip in recent times. She riled the public early in the debate by saying taxi drivers and McDonald's workers would not understand nor care about the provisions in the national security law. She followed up with a more recent statement that people taking part in the huge July 1 rally against the security legislation would do so 'as a kind of activity because it's a holiday'. A day before she privately resigned on June 25, Mrs Ip took a shot at Democrat lawmaker James To Kun-sun, saying she was exasperated by his 'emotional, impolite' and mannerless attitude in the Legislative Council. But critics and supporters alike have no doubt about her intelligence and capacity for hard work. In an interview with the South China Morning Post in March, the woman dubbed the 'iron lady' said her favourite job was the security chief's position, despite the bad press. She liked the challenges, she said, describing how she trained herself to drink up to 10 shots of the spirit Moutai so she could work better with mainland public security officials. Mrs Ip remains unapologetic for her vocal style, no matter the repercussions. 'I think I would like to be remembered as somebody who was not afraid to speak out, even if that might affect my popularity,' she said recently.