Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man, who enjoys the highest popularity ratings among all principal officials, will leave the government after his term ends in July.
In a recent University of Hong Kong poll, Ko received a net approval rating of 72 per cent, around 30 per cent higher than the principal official in second place.
Ko said in a joint interview with local media that the change of government leadership was not a “decisive factor” in his consideration. He said that he had worked smoothly with Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam – formerly the chief secretary – during the incumbent Leung Chun-ying administration.
“But I will still say this, whether CY stayed affected my [decision],” he said.
He said Carrie Lam is capable, determined and willing to listen.
Ko, a doctor, admitted he did not know how to handle political issues. He said that, although he may not have completed every task, there was not much to regret.
“I hope people feel that the things I did were for patients, or people affected by policies,” he said.
One of the major controversies during Ko’s term was a proposal to reform the Medical Council. It failed to pass following fears over the introduction of more mainland-trained doctors arriving in Hong Kong under relaxed entry requirements. Ko said such fears were untrue.
Ko was appointed a principal official in July 2012. He said the most difficult task during his tenure was to prevent infectious diseases in Hong Kong.
“From avian flu, SARS that we were concerned about, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, to dengue fever,” he said on a Now TV programme.
He said he wished the next administration would have more policies to benefit the grassroots.
“Of course governments cannot be too big, but it should not be too small as well. In some aspects it should achieve things,” he said.
Ko also said that he wished to have more family time and return to the volunteer work he dropped owing to time constraints as an official.
“First thing is I hope to return to the mountain areas on the mainland, to see the poverty alleviation and education work done by the Sowers Action and China Star Light Charity Fund,” he said. “My personal interests in bird watching and stargazing – I am also preparing for that, such as buying telescopes.”
Undersecretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee will reportedly replace Ko.