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Hong Kong high-speed rail

Hong Kong justice minister Rimsky Yuen expected to step down in January

He will resume private practice at one of city’s largest law firms next year

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 November, 2017, 7:02am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 November, 2017, 12:58pm

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung is expected to resign in January to resume his private practice in a top barrister’s chamber in the heart of the city, the Post has learned.

A source said Yuen was expected to leave the government after the mainland’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, endorsed the controversial joint checkpoint arrangement for the high-speed rail link to Guangzhou in December.

Since Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor won the city’s top job in March, it had been widely reported that Yuen – who has served in the post since July 2012 – was determined to leave after his five-year term expired.

But he agreed to serve Lam’s administration to help sort out the joint checkpoint arrangement, which has been criticised by pan-democrats for undermining the city’s autonomy by leasing part of the rail link’s terminus in West Kowloon to the mainland and allowing officers from across the border to exercise almost full jurisdiction there.

Hong Kong rail checkpoint must remain on the right legal track

The Standing Committee’s approval is the second part of a three-step process towards implementing the so-called “co-location” arrangement, following the signing of the relevant agreement between Hong Kong and Guangdong last Saturday. Local legislation will be the last step.

Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a senior counsel at Temple Chambers – one of the largest law firms in Hong Kong – confirmed to the Post that Yuen had already rented a room in the chamber, where extension and renovation work had just been completed.

“According to my understanding, [Yuen] has to pay the rent starting from January 1,” Tong said. “He has to pay for his room and also share the bill for renting the public areas, including the meeting rooms and corridors.”

The chamber is located at Pacific Place in Admiralty, the heart of the city, Tong revealed that the rent was HK$128 per square foot. The monthly rental fee for Yuen, who is currently earning a monthly salary of HK$346,850, is estimated to be between HK$100,000 and HK$200,000.

Hong Kong Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen sees no need to resign over Beijing interpretation

Tong, also an executive councillor advising the chief executive, said he was not sure if Yuen would rejoin the chamber immediately in January. He lamented that the post of secretary for justice was a thorny seat in the current complicated political atmosphere.

Dennis Kwok, who represents the legal sector in Legco, said he heard from sources that Yuen would be leaving in January. Kwok said he had disagreed with Yuen on a number of issues, including the minister’s role in the sentence review of Occupy protest leaders including Joshua Wong Chi-fung.

But Kwok said he had to give credit for Yuen’s work in developing the arbitration centre in Hong Kong.

Principal Government Counsel Wesley Wong Wai-chung has been tipped to succeed Yuen, but Kwok said he heard that the government would hire someone from outside the administration.

The name of former Bar Association chairwoman Winnie Tam Wan-chi was previously floated for the post, but her appointment was rumoured to have been blocked by Beijing.

The Department of Justice declined to comment on Wednesday.