Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa announced Wednesday night that he has accepted the resign of Hong Kong Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food Yeoh Eng-Kiong.
Tung made the remarks at a press conference Wednesday in response to the Report of the Legislative Council's Selective Committee to inquire into the handling of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Tung said Yeoh will remain at his post for another three months before the appointment of a new Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food.
The Chief Executive hailed Yeoh's professional and dedicated service to the public, and his altruism and courage in the fight against last year's SARS.
Tung said he had considered the resignation very carefully before accepting, and added the he and other senior officials are saddened by his departure.
However, to ensure a suitable successor is found, and that public health is maintained until then, Yeoh has agreed to continue in the position for another three months.
"I would like to thank Yeoh for his work during the past few years. Yeoh is a very dedicated person and he is very dedicated to his country and is very courageous in the face of great pressure. He has served the public selflessly and professionally," Tung said.
"Yeoh is very committed to Hong Kong. That's why everyday when he has been in his post, he has given his utmost to fulfilling his duties."
Tung said the hard work of Yeoh and his team helped contain SARS in Hong Kong. "He has done his job adequately and his achievement has been recognized by World Health Organizations. He has been under a lot of pressure from the public, but he continued to persevere in his post and he has managed to revamp our medical system. And he has accepted and implemented the majority of the recommendations made by international experts and as a result we have managed to keep SARS at bay," Tung said.
Tung added that SARS has been handled properly by Hong Kong, and no one should be accused of negligence or reprimanded because of misadministration.
"Officials who have participated in the fight against SARS have done their best, and there is no evidence that officials had not given their best or there was a problem with integrity," Tung stressed.
Yeoh offered his resignation "to give an expression to the spirit of accountability" and he thanked Tung for his leadership and support, adding: "it has been a privilege to have had this opportunity to serve the people of Hong Kong."
In a related development, Hong Kong Permanent Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food Carrie Yau made a statement Wednesday night, saying all of the colleagues from the Health, Welfare and Food Bureau felt sorry for the resignation of Yeoh Eng-kiong.
She said that "Hong Kong has faced many challenges and difficulties caused by non-human factors over the past five years such as SARS, avian influenza and dengue fever. Under the leadership of Yeoh, we have overcome and met these challenges with concerted efforts to safeguard the health of the Hong Kong public."
She added that "Yeoh has tried his best to fight for more resources for the caring of the disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in the society including the elderly and the disabled to ensure they can live a better life."
She said, "we wish Yeoh all the best in the future and hope he would continue to serve Hong Kong people in other ways."
(Xinhua News Agency July 9, 2004)