Barrister Keith Yeung to be first Hong Kong Chinese chief prosecutor
City's first Hong Kong Chinese chief prosecutor pledges to be fair and independent, and the man he'll succeed says he is 'highly respected'
Austin Chiu and Patsy Moy
Senior barrister Keith Yeung Kar-hung will be appointed the first Hong Kong Chinese director of public prosecutions next month. He takes over from the incumbent, Kevin Zervos.
The appointment of the commercial litigation specialist met with mixed reactions. A veteran lawyer called into question Yeung's reported ties with rich and powerful businessmen.
A former deputy High Court judge, Yeung, 48, vowed to be fair and impartial and uphold the rule of law.
"The system of criminal prosecution is a vital aspect of the Hong Kong legal system. Its key objective is to uphold the rule of law," Yeung said in his first meeting with the media. "To achieve that we need an independent fair, impartial and open system of public prosecutions.
"In discharging the duty of the director of public prosecutions, I will try my utmost. I will uphold the prosecutorial independence. I will handle all criminal prosecution in a fair and impartial manner. I will be guided by the public interest. I will uphold the rule of law," he said.
Senior counsel Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a Civic Party lawmaker, expressed reservations about the appointment.
He pointed to reports that Yeung had given legal advice to the Kwok brothers of Sun Hung Kai in the biggest corruption case in Hong Kong's history.
"There is at least apparent conflict of interest. Justice must be seen to be done. People need to be convinced that the director of public prosecutions is independent and impartial," Tong said.
Stephen Hung Wan-shun, vice-president of the Law Society and a criminal lawyer, welcomed the appointment. He said he believed that Yeung would make an appropriate declaration of interests.
The Department of Justice said it was "not appropriate" for Yeung to disclose information about his clients in his private practice due to professional confidentiality.
"[The department] has an established mechanism to ensure prosecution decisions and related issues are made in a just and fair manner and strictly in accordance with the law and the Statement of Prosecution Policy and Practice," it said.
While Yeung is the first local Chinese to get the job, he is not the first Asian. Vietnam-born Peter Nguyen, a member of the ethnic-Chinese Hoa minority, was DPP from 1994 to 1997.
Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung dismissed any concern that recruiting from outside the Department of Justice would hurt morale.
Zervos described Yeung as a lawyer who was "highly respected and widely regarded" in the legal profession for his "high integrity and honesty".
Zervos is widely expected to be appointed a High Court judge.
Asked about his next move, Zervos said it would be a "great honour" if he was appointed to the bench.