Tang fuels speculation about new justice chief

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 October, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 October, 2005, 12:00am

Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen yesterday further fuelled speculation that barrister Wong Yan-lung will succeed Elsie Leung Oi-sie as secretary of justice in the near future.

Speaking at a child poverty symposium, the finance secretary hinted that Hong Kong would be satisfied with the background of the new justice secretary.

'There have been lots of predictions regarding who will be Elsie Leung's successor. But I can tell you that when the choice is unveiled you will find someone who represents a classic Hong Kong story,' he said. 'There are lots of [successful] people who start out in the lower reaches of society, who are not rich from the start.'

When asked afterwards whether he was talking about Mr Wong - who has been described by senior government prosecutor Kevin Zervos as coming 'from a humble background' - the finance chief did not comment.

Mr Tang, who would not confirm whether Miss Leung had officially resigned, said he would leave the media to speculate on both issues.

The finance secretary's statement follows predictions that the administration is likely to make a formal announcement on the post as early as this week.

A spokesman for Miss Leung yesterday refused to speculate about the justice chief's future. 'I have not heard anything yet. We have no comment on [Mr Tang's] statement. He can say whatever he wants,' said the spokesman.

News of Mr Wong's possible candidacy first emerged after some leading lawyers said they had heard of it at the 22nd Congress on the Law of the World in Beijing early last month.

Since then, Mr Wong, 42, has been tipped as an ideal choice for the post.

It is understood that Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen is looking for non-controversial candidates aged under 45 to fill posts in the administration and key advisory bodies.

He also prefers candidates who are accepted by the community, able to work with him and who occupy leading positions in their professions.

Mr Wong, known for his political neutrality and integrity, meets all of those criteria.

The barrister sat on the 800-strong Election Committee which selected Tung Chee-hwa's successor but did not nominate Mr Tsang for chief executive. He is seen as very low-key by the political fraternity and his fellow professionals.

A devout Christian who spent six years looking after the underprivileged, Mr Wong began practising as a barrister in 1987 and became a senior counsel in 2002.

His practice focuses on constitutional, administrative, property and civil law.

He is chairman of the Criminal and Law Enforcement Injuries Compensation Boards and the Buildings Appeal Tribunal.