After 34 years of serving the public, Stephen Lam Sui-lung says it's now time to serve God.
So the chief secretary, who with his wife is a fervent Protestant, closes the government book when his term ends on June 30.
The couple then head to England, where he will delve into The Bible by studying theology at Oxford from September.
He will also put behind him "smears" and other testing experiences in the administration over recent years.
"I've been having this thought for the past eight or 10 years," the 56-year-old Lam told Commercial Radio. "After spending around 30 years in government it's time to open a new chapter in life."
He also revealed that before the chief executive election on March 25 he was asked by Beijing officials responsible for Hong Kong affairs whether he wished to remain in the SAR administration - but he made it clear he wanted to go.
"The chief executive-elect has also asked me about my intentions," Lam said. "I told him that I was looking forward to him finalizing his lineup successfully."
But Lam disputed the idea he is quitting because of his low popularity.
According to the latest poll of 800 people by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Lam was the lowest among the three key secretaries [the others: finance and justice] and the chief executive with 37.3 points out of 100.
Lam, a former secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs, was dubbed the "human recorder" for his cold manner when offering vague answers to lawmakers or trying to dismiss questions from others.
That didn't worry him too much, but he admitted his political career had been difficult.
"I have had to face different forces inside and outside the Legislative Council, including the anti-government forces,' he said. "It has always been tough because of the constant smears."
He stayed on for years as he was determined to do his best for Hong Kong people.
As for those who criticized him for not pushing for full democracy, Lam said he did what he could to make progress under the Basic Law.
Chief Executive-elect Leung Chun- ying declined to say whether he had asked Lam to join his administration.
The question was posed amid indications Lam is set to be replaced by Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the secretary for development who is much more popular.
Democratic Party lawmaker Lee Wing-tat, who often criticized Lam at legislative sessions, showed understanding on the news he is leaving. "It is not his call on how much democracy we get," Lee said. "That is largely in the hands of Beijing."
Lam went into government service as an administrative officer in 1978. He rose to become secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs in 2007 and chief secretary last year. He was in charge of the 1997 handover ceremony and all the other chief executive transitions since.
Lam did not answer directly yesterday on whether he was invited to become a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
But he said he will not rule out anything when it comes to serving Hong Kong.