Outgoing Permanent Secretary for Education and Manpower Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun has dismissed rumors that her imminent departure from her post is because of her unpopularity, but because "today" is the most suitable time given the progress of education reforms.
"I've no power to control what people think," said Law on Commercial Radio Sunday, referring to speculation that her departure was because teachers had protested and called for her resignation earlier this year.
She also said the job switch was not because of any outside influence, denying a "victory" to her fierce critic, Cheung Man-kwong, chairman of the Professional Teachers' Union, who had demanded her resignation on several occasions.
"I'll have to leave at some stage," Law said, "and now is the most appropriate time."
Law said the 2000 blueprint for education reform, which promises to bring the education sector into the 21st century, is complete, and it is now up to a successor to implement it.
"If I do not leave at this stage, am I to continue until 2012 when the `3,3,4' education system formally begins? If I work for one or two more years, that means my successor will take over the matter mid-way," she said.
"But if I leave today, it would be most suitable, because the map [for reform] is now drawn, and the implementation part can be handed over in one complete package for my successor to work on."
Although there has been no official announcement, the government is expected to announce in November that Law will be the next commissioner for the Independent Commission Against Corruption in a swap with current commissioner, Raymond Wong Hung-chiu.
Law conceded Sunday that her imminent departure from the education post was a "very reasonable assumption" because she has handled education for eight years, noting that most permanent secretaries hold their posts for three.
But she neither confirmed nor denied that her next job would be to oversee the graftbusters.
"Next month means from the first, until the thirtieth. Why don't you just wait and see and let the government make the announcement," she said.
The 53-year-old Law was appointed director of education in 1998, and secretary for education and manpower in 2000.
She later became permanent secretary in 2002, because of former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa's accountability system.
As the official responsible for large- scale reforms in education, Law was often criticized by educators who thought her ideas were out of touch with realities on the ground.
In January, discontent came to a head after Law threw out suggestions that the additional pressures on teachers brought by her education reforms contributed to the suicide of two teachers.
"If their deaths were related to education reforms, why did only two teachers commit suicide?" she had said, provoking teachers to demand her resignation.
She later apologized saying she "chose the wrong word."
Law said Sunday the unhappiest times during her education work were when people took her comments out of context or distorted their meaning, and then blamed her for something she did not mean to say. But a firm conviction that what she was doing was right for Hong Kong kept her going, and she has no regrets over her controversial years in education.
Despite the criticisms, she gets satisfaction in seeing the improved professionalism among teachers and the willingness of students to pursue further studies.
She has accepted the criticisms as "part of the job" because forcing change upon people is bound to make you unpopular, she said.
"People naturally see issues with a narrow mind, and it's always hard to leave behind your vested interests," Law said, referring to protests by teachers from schools which were being closed down because they did not have enough pupils.