Dr. Sarah Liao was Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works of the Hong Kong SAR Government from 2002 to 2007. During her tenure Dr. Liao was responsible for the development and implementation of policies on environmental protection, nature conservation, transport services and safety management, road and rail infrastructure, potable water supply, slope safety and flood prevention, and government construction works and industry practice standards.
Dr. Liao promotes sustainable development in all her policies. Her strategy has focused on building strong community awareness and personal stewardship through understanding of the importance of environmental protection in a society striving for economic and social development. She tackled air pollution from many fronts including the imposition of emission caps on power stations, tightening vehicle emission standards and worked closely with the Guangdong Government to institutionalize emission trading and setting up the first regional air monitoring network. Dr.Liao has successfully implemeted the polluters- pay- principle in both solid waste and wastewater management .On nature conservation she promotes private-public partnerships to create win-win situation for both land owners and ecological protection while greening of the urban areas is systematically carried out under a master plan.
On the transport side Dr. Liao spared no effort to promote the use of public transport in Hong Kong which caters for 90% of passenger travel. She commissioned three new railways during her term, accomplished the merger of the two railway companies and met the need for the increasing cross-boundary traffic upgrading the three existing crossings and build new crossings including the Lok Ma Chau railway and the Shenzhen Western Crossing where the co-location of immigration facilities further simplified procedures for travellers.
Dr. Liao oversaw the public works programme with an average annual budget of HK$27B. Dr. Liao instituted strict administrative procedures to obeserve environmental and sustainability requirments, safety standards as well as cost effectiveness practices while testing of new technology such as water recycling and desalination continues to ensure sustainability in HK's water resource.
Prior to 2002 Dr. Liao has worked in the academia as well as in the environmental and engineering consultancy business in HK, PRC and Taiwan. She was engaged in Beijing's Olympic Bid team in 2001 as the enviromental expert and presenter.
Dr. Liao has been active in public service in many areas. She initiated the establishment of the Occupational Safety and Health in 1988; chaired the Competition Policy Committee on Telecom Industry resulting in the liberalistion of the industry in HK ; representing HK''s Small and Medium Enterprise in APEC in 1994-5 leading to the setting up of ABAC Council, amongst others.
Dr. Liao was also active in professional bodies and NGOs, such as serving as Council member of the Environmental Division of the HK Institution of Engineers, as technical adviser to the Conservancy Association and as Board of Governors of Friends of the Earth. She steered "POLMET" from 1985 to 1997 and chaired the World Congress on Urban Growth and the Environment and the “International Association for Impact Assessment Annual Conference 2000”.
She was appointed Justice of the Peace in 1994 and in 1997 was made a member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for her contribution to consumer and environmental protection in Hong Kong and the development of trade and investment in the Asia Pacific. She was awarded the Gold Bauhinia Star (GBS) in July 2007.
Dr. Liao is a Fellow of the Royal Chemical Society and the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers. She has a PhD. in Environmental/Occupational Health in 1985, a M.Phil. in Inorganic Chemistry in 1977, a B.Sc. (Hons) in Chemistry in 1973, all from the University of Hong Kong, and an M.Sc. in Analytical Chemistry in 1975 from the University of Birmingham, U.K.