Ex-justice chief Wong Yan-lung recalls 7 years of 'walking on water'

Ex-justice secretary tells of how he trusted God in trying times while in government

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 May, 2013, 5:40am

Wong Yan-lung recalled a calling from God to be a "walker on water" before he took the legal helm in 2005 as secretary for justice, a post he quit last summer.

In reality, Wong's government colleagues preferred to call him "Siu Ming" - "a boy who is hardworking but a little naive, who would finish his homework and raise his hands to ask teachers questions".

Widely acclaimed in the legal sector, Wong said the seven years in government had widened his exposure to the dark side of politics. "Not everything I saw in government, and in Hong Kong, was a lovely sight," he told a group of more than 100 fellow Christians last night. "There are hypocrisies and vested interests in politics."

In the sharing session, Wong devoted much time to constitutional reform. In 2007, when a green paper on constitutional development was released, he wrote in his journal that he prayed for God's "protection against upheaval", he said.

There was what he described as a "critical prayer meeting" in his then official residence in the midst of heated debate in the city.

"What I can say is many have prayed fervently." There were at least five Christians in the cabinet and they held regular prayer sessions, he said.

Another hard lesson came in 2011, when Wong had to deal with a "rather painful experience" in setting up a replacement mechanism for resigning legislators. "Just one wrong decision could … land you, and Hong Kong, in trouble, and land you in weighty condemnation."

The devout Christian went on: "There are … sometimes hidden agendas in the mass media. There was pressure to conform … when the values of most people around you were not what God would like us to attain." He constantly resorted to prayers for "purity, wisdom and courage".

For him, God helped not just in politics but in judicial matters as well - as in the Democratic Republic of Congo's appeal for state immunity over millions of dollars of debt it owed a US fund. Some of the assets were stashed in Hong Kong. Wong said the Court of Final Appeal's decision to ask Beijing for a Basic Law interpretation "contributed significantly to Basic Law jurisprudence".

Since Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying chose Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung for his new cabinet in July, Wong has returned to life as a senior counsel - strengthened in his belief in God through the last seven tough years.