Arbitration legal eagle Teresa Cheng Yuek-wah will assume the role of Hong Kong’s justice secretary on January 18 after the incumbent, Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, officially tendered his resignation.
Yuen is set to leave the administration next month. He will attend a rare group deliberation meeting of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee in Beijing on Friday alongside security chief John Lee Ka-chiu and transport minister Frank Chan Fan. The meeting is set to scrutinise a controversial plan for the high-speed rail link to mainland China.
Cheng – a senior counsel since 2000 and former chairwoman of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre – will officially take up the post on January 18, a government source said on Thursday.
Asked if he had already tendered his resignation on Wednesday, Yuen said he had nothing to add at this stage. He said he had to clear the business on his desk before any further announcement.
In a separate interview with RTHK aired on Thursday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor praised Yuen as a very decent working partner. Asked if Yuen would finish his second five-year term, Lam said she respected the personal decisions of any principal official and that “nothing lasts forever”.
It has long been reported that Yuen was determined to leave the government and resume private practice as a barrister after completing a five-year term under former chief executive Leung Chun-ying. But Lam persuaded him to stay on for a year or two to deal with the hot-potato issue of the joint checkpoint proposal, which would for the first time give mainland officials almost full jurisdiction over part of the West Kowloon terminal leased to them.
Cheng completed her law degree at the University of London, and had taken up posts in statutory bodies. She also worked as a deputy judge and later as a recorder at the Court of First Instance.
Lawyers from across the political spectrum praised her as communicative and knowledgeable in constitutional matters, but her political leanings remain unknown.