Greek-Aussie feels right at home in world city
New Director of Public Prosecutions Kevin Zervos believes his appointment enhances Hong Kong's credentials as an international city.
It also marks a milestone for the Department of Justice's prosecutions division because the Australian is the first in its history to hold a masters degree in human rights, a qualification he obtained from the University of Hong Kong in 2009.
Both his predecessors were expatriates and it would not have been too much of a stretch to have predicted that 14 years after the 1997 return of sovereignty, the person in charge of who does and doesn't go on trial would have been Chinese. 'It reflects the fact that Hong Kong is an international city,' Zervos says. 'I came here nearly 20 years ago. Hong Kong is my home, I'm committed to Hong Kong. It's my life, it's my community.
'Becoming DPP is a great honour and I would like to think it was due to my hard work. I think that reflects well on Hong Kong. I have great confidence in the people who make up the prosecution service. They are keen, bright, public-spirited and they are part of the next generation that will carry the baton forward. I am very confident that we will be able to maintain the high standards of the past and take them into the future and probably do better.
'The commitment is so strong, it is genuine. People who work here do so because they have a civic sense of duty. Do not underestimate how bright they are.'
While the top prosecutor has struggled to find the time to master Cantonese in two decades here - 'the Cantonese that I have picked up in court is not the Cantonese you would want use in open discussion'' - he says his background of being raised in Australia's Greek migrant community had stood him in good stead, and allowed him to develop an affinity for the city and its people.
'I've learned what it's like to go through difficult times and to appreciate a fair and just society. I strongly believe in this principle. It's something I want to make sure our prosecutors understand - the underlying policy of our work is that everybody is treated equally before the law and the law is applied equally to everybody.
'Being of Greek background, I also come from an old culture and I have noticed quite a number of similarities between the Greek culture and the Chinese culture. My own background is not dissimilar to the Hong Kong story, so I have an affinity with the people and the place.''
And how does he relax: 'I read law. But I also enjoy meeting people, getting out, experiencing the community, its richness and great diversity and I bathe in it whenever I chance to. Hiking, water sports, a bowl of noodles or simply shopping. Everything is available for you here.'