A man who approached his work with a sense of humour

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 August, 2010, 12:00am

Outgoing Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang might be known to the public as the serious, robed top judge staring down from the bench at the Court of Final Appeal, but at least one person who knows him says he loves to laugh - and sometimes can't stop.

'He's actually a very fun person,' said lawmaker Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, Li's first pupil. 'He laughs a lot. He says he has to be serious. It's slightly against his nature. He loves to laugh. He sometimes had to try quite hard [not to laugh].'

As Li, who smiled and joked with journalists at his final press conference in his capacity yesterday, himself said: 'I think one must approach one's work in life seriously, but always with a sense of humour.'

Eu said she remembered going to court with Li once. 'He could not stop laughing, he was speechless. He was tickled by something, I don't remember what. Everyone was at a loss.'

Eu, a lawmaker and barrister, recalled phoning Li when he was in hospital with injured ribs after falling off a horse. When she called, he urged her not to make him laugh, apparently so he would not hurt his ribs further.

Li loved good food and good wine, said Eu, who remembered going to a dai pai dong with Li and his wife.

'When he goes to a function as a guest of honour he loves to stay and talk and chat,' said Eu, who noted that often the guest of honour would leave when dinner started.

'As a guest of honour sometimes he would stay so long that he wouldn't leave.'

As to whether he would reconsider becoming chief executive, Li said: 'I said this was impossible, and that remains the position.' Pressed further, he said: 'The best way to answer you is: This is impossible.'

Li says he is looking forward to taking up the clarinet, which he played in university, travelling, reading, playing tennis and playing bridge with retired friends.

'I have driven in the fast lane for 37 years, and not only the fast lane but often touching the speed limit, so it is time to move to a slower pace,' he said. Li, who would become an honorary professor as announced by the University of Hong Kong and Chinese University this week, yesterday said he would be teaching at Tsinghua University in Beijing as well.

He would start teaching next September.

He said he valued the opportunity to go to law schools to interact with young people.