WHEN my appointment as Chief Secretary was announced last week, I expressed hope the people of Hong Kong would judge me by my achievements over the next few years. I was honoured to be chosen by Governor Chris Patten to replace Sir David Ford and I am well aware I have a difficult act to follow. I have worked closely with Sir David in his 61/2 years as Chief Secretary - the longest holder of this demanding post. He has served with distinction, absolute commitment and love for the community. People have asked me what I think are my qualifications for the job. Firstly, I have worked in the Hong Kong Government for 31 years in a variety of positions, dealing with decisions affecting people at the grass roots, in the wider business community and international arena. That experience will be invaluable. I have unbounded faith in Hong Kong and admiration for the way it has succeeded against the odds. I want to see that success story continue and play a part in it. Secondly, I have an intimate knowledge of the Government machinery and a great deal of respect and affection for all members of the civil service. In the four months since I took over policy responsibilities for civil service issues, I have set out to meet as many members of the service as possible in order to have a better feel for their concerns. A highly motivated and fearlessly impartial civil service is the bedrock of our future. I would like to ensure each and every officer can develop his or her potential to the full, that we maintain the highest ethical and professional standards and that we continue a system of recruitment and promotion based on merit and suitability. And thirdly, being a Chinese is a distinct advantage, not only in terms of serving the community but also in communicating with the Chinese Government. We have good working relations with Chinese officials in many activities. I want to further develop our relationship on behalf of Hong Kong in my new position. Hong Kong has a resilient civil service, second to none, and despite some difficult times we have a great number of dedicated and committed men and women who are prepared to go a little further to serve their community. They are also well aware of the need to change in response to changing circumstances and if there is one thing we can count on, it is that this ability will be tested to the full in the years ahead. The community sets high standards for public servants and rightly so. I have always been guided by the fundamental ethics impressed on me as a fresh university graduate joining the administrative service in 1962. The watchwords were - and are - integrity, a sense of fair play and commitment to the community. These values will be needed as much in the future - indeed, probably more so - than they have been in the past. I consider it a privilege to serve as the head of such a fine organisation. I have vowed to discharge my responsibilities without fear or favour and I hope to earn the co-operation and support of all members of the civil service in meeting challenges in the years ahead. One of those challenges, which has received a considerable airing, is how the civil service will manage the transfer of sovereignty with a measure of fairness. Rightly or otherwise, this has become entangled in an argument over the Government's commitment to promoting local officers according to their merits. My appointment is proof, if any were needed, the localisation policy is alive and well. The Government remains firmly committed to the policy and we will see a number of other local officers promoted to policy secretary posts. I am encouraged by the fact that the average age of our policy secretaries over recent years has dropped from 53 to 46. This accent on youth bodes well for our future. My roots are firmly in Hong Kong. I was born in Shanghai but I was educated and married in Hong Kong. This is where my husband and I raised our family. Hong Kong has been good to us and we see our future here after 1997. I am optimistic about the territory's future and confident that, with the co-operation of my colleagues and members of the Legislative Council, we will be able to handle whatever problems lie ahead. I look forward to working closely with Legco. There has been a dramatic switch in the focus on the legislature since our first direct elections two years ago. We in the civil service have had to adjust to a more assertive and questioning legislature. I believe this has produced positive results for the administration, legislature, public and media. Discussion and debate have become more open - occasionally more volatile - but the most important point is the business of government has not been impeded. It has certainly become more transparent. This is surely in the public interest and underlines the value of a dynamic and credible legislature. We will also have to work closely with the Chinese Government to ensure a smooth transition. I am sure this will be achieved in a spirit of mutual goodwill and co-operation. The Chinese have made it abundantly clear they will implement faithfully the provisions in the Joint Declaration and I accept that. Continuity in the civil service is acknowledged by all to be important and civil servants have been reassured by Chinese officials that they value our civil service and that continuity after 1997 is guaranteed for those who comply with the relevant provisions in the Basic Law. I hope to make more visits to cities in China and meet a wider range of officials. Exchanges and visits promote understanding and co-operation. As leader of the Government team, it is my job to ensure there is the widest possible consultation in policy formulation affecting the community, to bring out the often competing strands of arguments involved in policy issues and once the arguments have been heard, to take decisions which I know will not always be popular. At the end of the day that is what the Chief Secretary's job is all about. I will be giving support and honest advice to the Governor based on judgments formed by 31 years' experience in the civil service and a lifetime in the community, but always with the interests of the people at heart. The administration must remain responsive and flexible, but in the final analysis it is the Government's duty to govern. As a Chinese I cannot fail but be proud of China's achievements, particularly in recent years. I firmly believe China will continue to grow not only economically but socially and politically, and that it will play an increasingly prominent role in the international community. We value our way of life in Hong Kong, which is different to China. This has been explicitly acknowledged by China's leaders in their adoption of the one country, two systems concept, and is expressed in clear terms in the Joint Declaration and Basic Law. The Hong Kong, British and Chinese governments share the common goal of maintaining the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong, not only before 1997, but particularly after 1997. I consider myself a young 53 with many productive years ahead. I hope I have some cause to expect that I can continue working for Hong Kong in whatever capacity is available until the normal retirement age of 60, and beyond that if possible.