Praise for likely new justice minister
Does choice of political neutral show Beijing's strength or weakness? Parties split
The expected appointment of a politically neutral barrister as Hong Kong's next justice minister shows Beijing has given the chief executive a free hand, according to a leading government ally.
To a leading government critic, it shows the government dare not appoint an out-and-out pro-Beijinger.
Tam Yiu-chung, vice-chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's selection of Wong Yan-lung to succeed Elsie Leung Oi-sie as secretary for justice would be supported across the pro-Beijing camp.
'If the chief executive thinks someone is suitable for the job because that person can have better co-operation with him, then we will have to respect that,' Mr Tam said.
He praised Beijing for its liberal-mindedness in giving Mr Tsang a free hand.
But former Democratic Party chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming said he saw the move as an acknowledgment from Mr Tsang that an outwardly pro-Beijing candidate would be too controversial. Pro-Beijing lawyers such as Alan Hoo and former solicitor-general Daniel Fung Wah-king had been among those tipped for the job.
Mr Lee was one of several lawyers who heaped praise on Mr Wong's talents and humble nature.
He described Mr Wong as a 'very good person' who would uphold the rule of law.
'He keeps to a low profile in politics and is a person of neutrality. He is an upright person with a reputation, and is always polite.'
Mr Lee hoped the rule of law would be better protected under Mr Wong than it had been under Miss Leung. The veteran lawmaker said he hoped incidents such as the government's seeking an interpretation of the Basic Law from Beijing, and the decision not to prosecute newspaper tycoon Sally Aw Sian for conspiracy to defraud, would not happen again.
Senior government prosecutor Kevin Zervos described Mr Wong as a highly public-spirited person of great integrity. 'He is hard-working, dedicated and exceptionally bright. I think this is the best appointment they could make.'
'He is not a person who makes a lot of noise. He is not a political animal. He comes from a humble background and embodies the values and the spirit of Hong Kong.'
Educated at Queen's College in Causeway Bay, Mr Wong studied law at Magdalen College, Cambridge, and began practising as a barrister in 1987. He served on the Bar Association council between 1996 and 2002, when he was made a senior counsel.
He became a Christian while at Cambridge and was baptised at Eden Baptist Church.
'Between 1991 and 1996, I was closely involved with a Christian concern group for the homeless in Hong Kong both as a voluntary worker and as an adviser. This work has brought me in touch with the needy in our society and taught me a lot about life and values,' Mr Wong wrote on a Cambridge University alumni website.
Mr Wong would not comment on his possible appointment.