'Quitting job never crossed my mind'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 June, 2012, 12:00am


The outgoing secretary for justice said yesterday that he never once contemplated quitting despite his central role in some of the toughest policy fights in recent years.

Speaking to reporters before he steps down to make way for his as-yet unnamed successor in the incoming administration, Wong Yan-lung brushed aside suggestions that differences of opinions within the government had led him to consider resigning midterm.

'Someone called on me to resign, but I had never thought of it,' he said, without saying who made the call. 'I would consider quitting only if something that crossed my bottom line happened. That didn't take place in the past seven years.'

During his tenure, Wong was required to sell the by-election amendment intended to stop legislators from quitting and running to regain their seats as a protest tactic. Some also urged him to seek Beijing's interpretation of the Basic Law on controversial issues, such as the rights to abode of foreign domestic helpers and babies born in Hong Kong to mainland mothers.

'Throughout the seven years, all government officials respected the rule of law,' Wong said yesterday. 'They've accepted all of my legal advice. No one refused accept my advice, including the chief executive.'

Wong said he decided before the chief executive election in March that he would step down and said the decision had nothing to do with the likelihood of Leung Chun-ying's election to the city's top post.

'The decision is not related to who was elected as the new chief executive,' he said.

He praised Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, who is widely tipped to succeed him as secretary, as an outstanding and hard-working senior counsel. But he declined to comment on Yuen's position as a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

'Rimsky is a man of principle,' Wong said. 'He has a commitment to the rule of law.'

He also rejected a suggestion that the rise in court challenges to government decisions was an abuse of the judicial review process.

'There have been more judicial reviews in recent years,' he said. 'This is because people better understand their rights now. Judicial review is not a bad thing. If it is used properly, it will keep the government under scrutiny and the officials accountable.'

Wong said he had not noticed a deterioration in the rule of law in the 15 years since Hong Kong was returned to China from British rule.

In fact, Wong said mainland authorities always showed respect for Hong Kong's judicial independence.

Wong also added his voice to those calling for an investigation into the death this month, purportedly by hanging, of mainland activist Li Wangyang , which has drawn outrage from democracy advocates.

'Like the public, I hope the relevant authority will make a thorough investigation into the death and explain the details to put the public's mind at ease,' Wong said, while stopping short of saying whether he thought the death was suspicious.