A senior state official yesterday highly commended departing heath minister Yeoh Eng-kiong for having done a good job in combating Sars last year - the first open praise from Beijing for a minister forced to step down. But Chen Zuoer, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, conceded that Dr Yeoh also had demerit points. It was also the first time that Beijing had commented on the resignation of a Hong Kong minister. The response came as Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen urged people to avoid extremist views if a similar situation happened in future. Dr Yeoh's departure drew mixed reaction from his colleagues. Home Affairs Secretary Patrick Ho Chi-ping said: 'You can step down just as you can take office; you are prepared to step down once you are in office.' Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen said the government and the public should consider different ways to punish ministers for their mistakes. 'Is it always a formula? Either seeing heads rolling or no punishment at all? This is something we have to consider,' he said during a business trip to Beijing. A day after Dr Yeoh resigned, Mr Chen said in Beijing that the health chief's contribution to the community should be remembered. 'During the turmoil over the past two years, Dr Yeoh remained courageous and committed. He has merits and demerits,' he said, without elaborating on the demerits. Echoing Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's praise on Wednesday night, Mr Chen commended Dr Yeoh for his leading role in battling Sars. 'He was competent in his post. I think the community will never forget his contributions,' he said. The open praise for Dr Yeoh was in stark contrast to the approach to former financial secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung and former secretary for security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, whose resignations drew no official response from Beijing. Mr Tsang said on Wednesday that Dr Yeoh's decision to resign was a manifestation of his commitment to shoulder full responsibility. Yesterday, the chief secretary urged people to restore calm after the resignation, the government's third in less than a year. 'I am aware that the accountability system is still not perfect up to this moment,' Mr Tsang said. He urged people to remain rational in the event of challenges like Sars. 'We cannot resort to extremist views lightly. We have to strike a balance for public interest,' he said, in an apparent reply to the public demand for Dr Yeoh to step down. Xiao Weiyun, a mainland drafter of the Basic Law, said the original version of the Legco motion asking the chief executive to sack Dr Yeoh went beyond the legislature's powers under the mini-constitution.