Andrew Cheung named as new chief judge

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 April, 2011, 12:00am

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Court of First Instance judge Andrew Cheung Kui-nung has been named the new chief judge of the High Court, succeeding Geoffrey Ma Tao-li, who became Hong Kong's second chief justice in September.

The proposed appointment by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen still needs the Legislative Council's endorsement.

Cheung, 49, is a specialist in judicial reviews and has ruled in a number of high-profile cases relating to constitutional and human rights.

In October, he ruled against an application for a judicial review filed by a transsexual woman hoping to marry a man, arguing that issues such as the definition of marriage and the determination of gender were matters for the legislature and not the courts.

In December 2009, he upheld the constitutionality of corporate votes in Legco's functional constituencies by rejecting applications for judicial reviews filed by two members of the League of Social Democrats, saying that corporate voting was not excluded by the Basic Law.

In another landmark case, he ruled in June that it was unconstitutional for the government to require Hong Kong residents to live continuously in the city for a year before applying for the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance. The ruling resulted in the Social Welfare Department's immediate shelving of the requirement on applicants.

Cheung started his career with the judiciary as district judge in 2001 and was promoted to deputy High Court judge in the same year. He was appointed as a judge of the Court of First Instance in 2003. Before joining the judiciary, he was a barrister in private practice for 15 years.

Senior counsel Ronny Tong Ka-wah, who is also a legislator with the Civic Party, said he found Cheung a suitable candidate for the position.

'The job of the chief judge is mainly administrative and not much relating to giving judgments. So whether the candidate is conservative or not does not matter.

'He [Cheung] works well with his colleagues in the judiciary and has a nice temperament.'

Tong added that Cheung's appointment would be part of the judiciary's promotion of relatively young judges to senior positions.

The government also announced the proposed appointment of Lord Collins of Mapesbury and Lord Clarke of Stone-cum-Ebony, both serving at the United Kingdom Supreme Court, as non-permanent judges of the Court of Final Appeal.