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Executive Council of Hong Kong

Hong Kong justice minister job ‘too tiring and unattractive’, says policy adviser who claimed he turned it down

Former long-time pan-democratic lawmaker Ronny Tong says his priority is developing democracy in city

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 December, 2017, 2:40pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 December, 2017, 10:37pm

One of Hong Kong’s top policy advisers claimed on Saturday that he had repeatedly declined to be Hong Kong’s next justice minister, as Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung prepares to step down next month.

“The job is too tiring and unattractive to me,” Executive Council member Ronny Tong Ka-wah said on an RTHK programme. He did not specify when he was offered the high-ranking government post or when he turned it down.

While the guessing game as to who might succeed Yuen continues, Tong said many qualified lawyers had refused to take on the job.

As for himself, the former long-time pan-democratic lawmaker said his priority was developing democracy in the city and for this reason it would be inappropriate for him to serve as the justice secretary.

But he described one of the tipped candidates for the job, Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah, as a suitable choice despite the former chairwoman of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre lacking experience in prosecutions.

The job is too tiring and unattractive to me
Ronny Tong, Executive Council member

Tong stressed he had no “insider information” about who the next justice secretary would be, while praising Cheng’s qualifications for the job.

“If she were to be nominated, she would help Hong Kong develop in the area of arbitration ... under the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’,” he said, alluding to the central government’s international trade plan.

In the field in which Cheng was viewed as inexperienced, Tong said she could be helped by the director of public prosecutions. That job, however, is vacant following the departure of Keith Yeung Ka-hung in September.

The Post reported last month that Yuen was expected to step down in January and return to private practice at a top law firm in the city.

A source said the justice secretary was expected to leave the government after the mainland’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, endorsed a controversial joint checkpoint arrangement for the high-speed rail link to Guangzhou later this month.

Various reports have emerged in recent months on who Yuen’s successor might be. Those tipped for the position have included former Bar Association chairwoman Winnie Tam Wan-chi as well as the incumbent Paul Lam Ting-kwok. Tam however was reportedly rejected by the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, Tong said he agreed with new rules being proposed by pro-establishment members of Hong Kong’s legislature to stop filibustering in the chamber.

“The pro-establishment camp feels like it has had enough, so they proposed the changes when they had a numerical advantage,” said Tong, a former member of the pro-democracy Civic Party. “But I do not think the proposed changes to the Legislative Council’s procedural rules can stop filibustering altogether.”

The delaying tactics have in recent years been applied by pro-democracy lawmakers to oppose what they saw as unjust or unreasonable policies. Changes to Legco’s rulebook require support from both the city’s geographical and functional constituencies, which are both dominated by the pro-government camp after six lawmakers from the rival bloc were disqualified over improper oaths of office.