'Godfather of civil service' was the only man thought tough enough to head KCRC ; Yeung Kai-yin 1941-2007 When Yeung Kai-yin was named chairman and chief executive of the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation in 1996, the reason given for his appointment was simple. Yeung, an outspoken, often abrupt veteran of both the civil service and business, was the only person tough enough for the job, explained Secretary for Transport Gordon Siu Kwing-chue. Nobody argued with that assessment. During a government career that spanned more than three decades, Yeung earned the nickname 'Godfather of the civil service'. This was because he had set many precedents during his career and was the first Chinese to fill many senior positions. Born in Hong Kong in 1941, he gained an honours degree from the University of Hong Kong and joined government as an administrative officer at the age of 21. He was regarded at various stages of his career as the epitome of the successful government insider, rising swiftly through the ranks. As an administrative officer - the cream of the civil service, as they liked to regard themselves - he was switched through a variety of postings. He filled 22 jobs. In his final years with government he was director-general of industry, secretary for education and manpower, secretary for transport and secretary for the treasury. He sat as an official member of the Legislative Council and was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Yeung had a reputation for toughness during his 31 years in government. That carried over to his time with Sino Land and later with the KCRC. There are many tales of the abusive dressings down he gave in Cantonese or English, a habit he is said to have picked up from short-tempered, bad-mannered colonial administrators during his early years as a civil servant. He often had major differences of opinion with people with whom he worked. After leaving Sino Land amid rumours that he disagreed with its chief, Robert Ng Chee-siong, Yeung noted it was 'always true that you will have different views from your working partner'. It had been the same when he worked with former chief secretary Sir David Ford, Yeung said. Yeung's forceful personal style won him a lot of admirers in the civil service, but also much resentment. But it was in his final positions with the KCRC that for the first time in his career he came under intense public scrutiny and press attention. When he took over the railway corporation in 1996 it was facing challenging times. The vastly expensive West Rail system was being built; the mainland had openly criticised both the funding arrangements and planned extensions of the KCR network. Yeung was uniquely qualified for the job, having been chief of both transport and the treasury. He knew the challenges from the points of view of moving people about the territory and the cost of doing so. He came under fire in the press for his undisclosed salary; because he held both top jobs he was said to earn about HK$6.5 million a year. During Legco hearings he was criticised as acting as a colonial civil servant, which, of course, he was by both temperament and training. One Legco member said Yeung responded to criticism by 'sitting comfortably high and above and paying no attention to public demands, which is totally out of touch by today's standards'. In 2002, it was revealed the KCRC had paid out HK$1.5 billion in extra payments on West Rail contracts. There was a raging controversy about the perceived misuse of public funds and complaints that the KCRC had paid out vast amounts for shoddy work. Some politicians and press called for him to accept responsibility and resign. He did not. The scandal gave a severe battering to the legend of infallibility that Yeung had built up over many years. There was another public outcry over the HK$35 million in annual payments to the top 10 KCRC executives. The packages included lavish benefits such as club memberships, chauffeured limousines and use of three luxury yachts for entertainment. To his intense embarrassment and rage, these details were published the same day as public transport fares were discussed in Legco. The issue led to public demonstrations against KCRC wastefulness. Controversy would not go away. There was anger over plans to build a spur line to the border through an environmentally sensitive area. The KCRC lost this battle. In 2001, Yeung was removed as KCRC chairman but remained as CEO on a two-year contract. It was a rare and humiliating setback and one he felt keenly. But he had started with the railway with the task of building the West Rail and he wanted to finish the job. In 1998 Yeung was named chairman of the Vocational Training Council, a task he took seriously.