Undersecretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Julia Leung Fung-yee spent a career covering the business world as a reporter. But her favourite story was not about markets or investment. 'A Long Voyage Home From Taiwan to China,' published in the Asian Wall Street Journal when she was its China correspondent in February 1988, describes the first soldier in Chiang Kai-shek's army going home to the mainland to meet his family. After the Communist Party of China took power in 1949, there was no communication between the mainland and Taiwan for almost 40 years until 1988. Leung, 50, remembers clearly accompanying the soldier Hsiung Kuang-yuan on a bumpy road back to his old home in a village on the outskirts of Nanchang. 'I remember the soldier did not recognise his son and he was furious when he learnt that his wife had remarried when he hadn't,' Leung said. 'He was also so upset when he learnt his mother died just one year before he returned. 'The mother, until she died aged 81, refused to move from the village as she always believed her son would return one day. She always put a bowl and chopsticks on the dinner table to prepare for his return.' The heart-wrenching story is now a distant memory, with economic and social relations between Beijing and Taipei now well advanced. Indeed, the issue of cross-strait relations that Leung wrote so passionately about as a reporter is something she now is working on in the corridors of power. As the undersecretary for the financial sector, she and other financial regulators are helping to facilitate cross-border investment flows between the mainland and Hong Kong and Taiwan. A recent example is the cross-border exchange-traded fund (ETF) project that allows Taiwanese investors to buy into mainland firms by trading units of the funds listed in Hong Kong or Taipei. The Asian Wall Street Journal was her first employer after she received her Master's Degree in Journalism from Columbia University in 1984. Leung reported on the economic reforms in China in the 1980s, top leader Deng Xiaoping' s famous visit to Shenzhen in 1992 and the first listing of a mainland enterprise in Hong Kong in July 1993. A year after the first H-share listing in the city, the reporter joined the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, staying there for 14 years. In her job of handling the authority's external relationships, she travelled frequently to the mainland to meet officials. She helped issue the US$3 billion Asian bond fund project and push the development of yuan banking and yuan bond business as well as the qualified domestic institutional investors (QDII) scheme for mainlanders to invest in overseas markets through fund products - a job she still does but in a different role. A year ago, she quit her job at the HKMA to join the government as the undersecretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, working with Minister Chan Ka-keung. Leung is no stranger to financial crises. When she was a reporter, she covered the 1987 market crash. In the 1997 and 1998 Asian financial crisis, she was at the HKMA helping to tackle the problem. In September last year, a month after joining the government, she had to face street protests and 21,000 complaints filed by investors with the HKMA and the Securities and Futures Commission over so-called minibonds, an investment product issued or guaranteed by Lehman Brothers Holdings that became worthless after the lender collapsed. Leung has two children, a son and a daughter, who are now studying in Britain. Her husband is a senior executive at RTHK. As a former reporter who monitored government and monetary policy, what it is like being on the other side? There has been consistency in my three jobs. As a reporter, I monitored the government on behalf of the public. As an HKMA executive and now a government undersecretary, I work in the interests of the public. You joined the government shortly before the Lehman Brothers collapse. What lessons do you think we should learn from the crisis? The Lehman minibond incident will shape our regulatory framework. We hope the crisis will turn into a positive force that will bring in a new regulatory framework that would enhance investor protection. The two regulators - the Securities and Futures Commission and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority - have proposed a series of regulatory measures to enhance investor protection ranging from the authorisation of investment products to the sales process and the standard of intermediaries. In terms of the regulatory structure, there were a lot of debates over the past 10 years. In Hong Kong, banks are regulated by the HKMA and brokers are regulated by the SFC while overseas there are different models such as the single regulator or the twin-peak models. There is no 'one size fits all' and the international markets are also reviewing the issue. We will also review our regulatory structure by taking into account the international trends and unique features of the Hong Kong market. One year after your job change, do you regret your choice? I am not a job hopper as I stayed on my first job at the Asian Wall Street Journal for 10 years and on my second at the HKMA for 14 years. But then it came to a point where I wanted a change and to learn a new skill set and new opportunities. No regrets. I feel I made the right choice. What do you think are the most difficult tasks in your job? The most difficult is handling political pressure. Before I took up this job, I knew this was a political job and it was something new to me. But what surprised me was that it did not provide time to warm up. One month after I took on the job, Lehman Brothers collapsed and we had to answer politicians' questions. That is the biggest challenge of this job. Only 0.8 per cent of the public could recognise you in a survey in April. Do you think you should enhance your communication with the public? The low recognition rate reminds me that I must do more. It is not for the sake of enhancing my personal profile. To establish credibility of policy, we have to interface with the public and stakeholders of relevant bodies. That is where I will try to do more. You have done a lot of work to promote the Close Economic Partnership Arrangement as well as the yuan bond in Hong Kong. How can these measures help Hong Kong and China's future development? Over the long term, the Hong Kong and China market will be integrated. As time goes on, the yuan will be allowed to be used outside the mainland. Hong Kong will be in the best position to be at the centre of yuan-related business. The ETF, QDII or yuan bond issues are all pilots for using the yuan as it moves towards full integration with the international world. Why did you choose to be a reporter in early 1980s? I believed that through objective and accurate reporting I could serve the public. I could let the public make informed decisions on investment. It came with a lot of responsibility but you could watch history happen. Why did you opt to join the HKMA? I wanted to learn a new skill set by moving into a new area. When you are a reporter, you are responsible for your byline and reporting. When you are working at a public institution, you are part of a team. At the HKMA, I had a team of 50 people, which was very different and challenging. How do you balance work and family. Do you have hobbies? My family does complain that I do not have time for them. It is difficult but I try to manage a balance between work and family. I don't have time for hobbies but I read a lot. Do you have political ambitions? I never target anything. I just want to do the best in my current job.