Meeting with our Secretary For The Enivornment, Transport & Works Of The HKSAR
Audrey Chen, Winnie Kong and Katherine Wong of the Editorial Sub-committee met with Dr. Sarah Liao on December 6th, 2004.
Dr. Sarah Liao, Secretary for the Environment, Transport & Works
As we were led to the waiting room, our hearts leapt with anticipation the meeting of our Secretary for the Environment, Transport & Works of the HKSAR (SETW). Moments later we were escorted to the main office and were met warmly with our old girl, Dr. Sarah Liao.
After some brief exchanges of background and updates, Dr. Liao started off by telling us how she became one of the secretaries of the HKSAR. Dr. Liao's career path that led her to become Hong Kong's SETW was entirely incidental. When the opportunity came up, she felt a moral obligation to take up this position, in particular hoping to offer her services in dealing with issues related to the environment and trying to make a difference to our society.
Receiving the Grantham scholarship, Dr. Liao majored in Inorganic Chemistry in the University of Hong Kong while at the same time tutored part-time in Chemistry. Her career since then had always been related to environmental safety and health issues, whether it was administrative work within the University for laboratory, radiation, chemical or fire safety, or working with the Medical Faculty on environmental health. She later obtained an MSc degree from the UK.
She also noted that teachers also played a very important role in the development of young people. Having spent her senior years in DGS she remembered the teachers very well during her school days. Back then, her class was notorious for playing pranks on the teachers. She remembered vividly one April Fool's day where they physically moved Miss Mansfield's mini cooper from the parking lot onto where the foyer is now! Sometimes, the teachers were not amused. Remarkably enough, Dr. Liao noted that we usually find the most interesting of characters arising from turbulent times. From their class of 1968 you will find diverse and colorful personalities; whether they were liberalists, leftists (one of her classmates had a picture of Chairman Mao stuck inside her desk), idealists or even rebels. However DGS was extremely tolerant of their diversity and personality and gave them space to explore different ideas.
Dr. Liao also appreciates DGS has always been a progressive school. She has fond memories of her classmates and of herself negotiating with Dr. Symons on different issues. She also remembered well the Sex Education class in Form three (DGS was the first school in Hong Kong to offer sex education to their students).
Compared with students nowadays, the girls then were more streetwise: the political atmosphere during that era cultivated their inquisitive nature, and the discipline and persistence acquired during school days allowed them to persevere through setbacks. A story about herself served as a very good example: It was at very young age, while scribbling on the wall, that she realized that she had dyslexia - she kept writing the mirror image of the number '3'. It was through self realization and hard work that she managed to correct the problem by the time she was in Primary 1. "I paid attention, and gradually was able to distinguish between the two."
Dr. Liao's advice to DGS girls: "DGS girls are very intelligent, and naturally we do very well (especially in dealing with problems), whether in studies, work or family. Remember that learning is a very long process, so we must develop our interests. Become well developed individuals - and do not get stuck in just knowing how to operate within a certain system. Do not be too result-oriented; at each point in your life let your imagination take a free ride. It will be a pity if you allow yourself to be stifled not even daring to dream."
The two-hour talk session was heartfelt and enlightening; touching on the essence of life and the importance of friendship (she still has regular gatherings with classmates from her year). With thoughts echoing in our minds, the interview ended with hugs. And with imprints of Dr. Liao's remark, "~ girls should be like this" we left her office with an instant revival of our school sentiment, "Once a DGS girl, always a DGS girl."
Members of the Editorial Sub-Committee with Dr. Sarah Liao.