Speaking at a symposium on poverty earlier this month, Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen said the next justice minister would be 'a classic Hong Kong success story', someone who started out 'in the lower reaches of society'. Most observers seized on his remarks as confirmation that 41-year-old barrister Wong Yan-lung had been chosen as Elsie Leung Oi-sie's successor. Throughout his childhood and adolescence, Mr Wong lived with his family in a tiny room in a rundown pre-war building in Wan Chai. The family later moved to Wah Fu Estate in Aberdeen. His father was an ice-cream vendor outside the Peak Tram station in Garden Road, Central. Mr Wong excelled at school. He scored As in seven subjects in the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Exam in 1981, ranking first in the arts stream at the elite Queen's College in Causeway Bay. In 1983, Mr Wong won the Prince Philip Scholarship to study law at Magdalen College, Cambridge. He began practising as a barrister in 1987 as a protege of Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang, then a barrister. Mr Wong specialised in constitutional, administrative, property and civil law. He was made a senior counsel in 2002. In 1996 he married Chan Siu-yan, a Cambridge graduate he met in 1991 at the Cambridge Chinese Society dinner at the Mandarin Oriental. Mr Wong has never forgotten his humble origins. In February 2002 he told students at Queen's College about his poor background. 'When I was young, I lived in a pre-war building and a rental flat in a public housing estate and had no space for study. Apart from the study room in school, I studied all the day during weekends at the Arts Centre.' He has been closely involved in welfare groups caring for the poor. 'Between 1991 and 1996 I was closely involved with a Christian group for the homeless as a voluntary worker and adviser. This work has brought me in touch with the needy in our society and taught me a lot about life and values,' Mr Wong wrote on the website of Cambridge University alumni in Hong Kong. The Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, former director of the Christian Concern for the Homeless Association, said Mr Wong was a devout Christian who had spent many years helping the underprivileged, for instance visiting the homeless living in former bomb shelters. 'Some people take part in charity work in their offices, but Mr Wong went to the front line to meet the people in need,' Mr Chu said. Mr Wong is vice-chairman of the Cedar Fund, a Christian charity that helps the poor in Asia and Africa through education, development and relief programmes. He sat on the 800-strong Election Committee but did not nominate Tung Chee-hwa for a second term in 2002 and abstained from nominating Donald Tsang Yam-kuen for chief executive in June. Mr Wong, who seldom airs his political views publicly, wrote in the Hong Kong Economic Times in 1999 that he was sad to see people making unfair criticism of the Court of Final Appeal, including personal attacks, during the right-of-abode controversy. 'If there are loopholes in a law when it was drafted, it is difficult for the courts to remedy the defect when it 'implements' it. The point has been illustrated by many legal professionals during the controversy over the interpretation of the Basic Law,' he wrote. A former member of the Bar Association Council, he joined the legal sector's march in protest at the state legislature's interpretation of the Basic Law in 1999. In April this year he joined a march against another interpretation of the Basic Law, this time on the length of the chief executive's tenure. As a barrister, one of his most famous cases occurred four years ago when he defended a taxi driver sued under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance. Mr Wong won a legal battle in the Court of Final Appeal on behalf of the cabbie, who had refused to apologise for remarks he made to a paraplegic passenger. The top court dismissed the woman's action. He told the court the defendant would not apologise because 'forcing somebody to apologise infringes their freedom of speech'. 'You can outlaw what he does and declare to the world this is unacceptable, but to do something that involves the freedom of his conscience or expression is wrong,' he said.