Mourners pay tribute to ex-top judge Simon Li Fook-sean

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 March, 2013, 4:13am

A low-profile memorial service was held yesterday to pay tribute to the man who was the first Chinese Hongkonger to be chief justice in the days of the British rule.

Dozens of close relatives and friends gathered for a sober vigil to remember late top judge Simon Li Fook-sean, 91, who died of heart failure last month at the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital in Happy Valley.

The Catholic ceremony was held at the Hong Kong Funeral Home in North Point. White flowers and messages of condolences lined the corridors of a hall, sent by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Secretary of Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung and Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li.

But only several dozens of close relatives and friends, including his only daughter Gladys Li, former chairwoman of the Bar Association, were present; none agreed to talk to the press, which was kept out of the service.

One of his nephews, Bank of East Asia chairman and chief executive David Li Kwok-po, told reporters: "Thank you. I have nothing to share."

Li had battled ill health since being admitted to hospital with a chronic respiratory problem about a year ago. About a dozen family members, including his daughter, were at his bedside as he neared death on February 26.

Li served on the bench for more than two decades, earning a reputation as a trailblazer among the legal fraternity.

He stood in as the city's top judge under British rule back in 1986 and was one of four candidates - including shipping tycoon and eventual winner Tung Chee-hwa - vying to be the first chief executive.

In 1987, he retired at the age of 64 as the city's most senior Chinese judge.

Li is also survived by his wife and four of his five sons. His second son Joseph died suddenly in Britain in 1995.