Judges who are foreign nationals will be allowed to step into Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang's shoes during his absence, under a proposed change to the law. The amendment to the strict nationality rules has been prompted by a shortage of local judges of sufficient seniority. If passed, it will allow British passport-holder Mr Justice Henry Litton to step in for Mr Justice Li. At the moment, the Court of Final Appeal Ordinance stipulates the Chief Justice must be a Chinese citizen who is a permanent resident of the SAR with no right of abode in any foreign country. If the Chief Justice is ill or abroad, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa must appoint the next most senior permanent judge who fulfils these criteria. But none of the current three permanent Court of Final Appeal judges - Justices Litton, Charles Ching and Kemal Bokhary - pass the test. According to the amendment to be gazetted today, where there is no eligible candidate the Chief Executive is to appoint the next most senior permanent judge even if he is an expatriate and/or holds a foreign passport. 'We have proposed to amend the ordinance to avoid the undesirable situation where the post of Chief Justice may have to be left vacant with no one to perform the various statutory functions of the Chief Justice in his absence,' a government spokesman said.