Prominent arbitrator Teresa Cheng has been announced as Hong Kong’s next secretary for justice, replacing the resigning Rimsky Yuen.

The Chinese State Council announced its decision to appoint the 59-year-old on Friday morning via state outlet Xinhua, half an hour ahead of Lam and Cheng’s press conference. Cheng will take office on Saturday.

rimsky yuen teresa cheng
Rimsky Yuen (left), Teresa Cheng (right). Photo: InMedia/Des Voeux Chambers.

Cheng has been a barrister for three decades, working at the prestigious Des Voeux Chambers and primarily focusing on arbitration and civil law.

Over the years, [Cheng] has been very active in public service,” Lam said in a Friday press conference.

“Through her chairmanship and membership of a range of important committees of the HKSAR Government, she is well-versed in government affairs and has earned the respect of civil servants. I have every confidence that she will make a very competent [secretary for justice].”

Upholding the rule of law

“The prime mission of the secretary for justice is to uphold the rule of law,” Cheng told reporters.

“One Country, Two Systems is the most favourable and appropriate arrangement for Hong Kong. However, as we know, during its implementation there have been situations whereby some unprecedented legal challenges have arisen.”

“I can understand that people have different views about One Country Two Systems and perhaps also the Basic Law. However, if we insist on applying legal principles objectively and rationally, analyse the Basic Law which is promulgated by the National People’s Congress in accordance with the constitution of the PRC, we will ultimately arrive at the same legal conclusion.”

Teresa Cheng
Teresa Cheng. video screenshot via Facebook.

Upon her election last year, Chief Executive Lam was rumoured to have sought former Bar Association chairperson Winnie Tam as secretary for justice – a move that was apparently vetoed by Beijing.

“I will not comment on or disclose the process of approaching candidates in forming my team,” said Lam on Friday.

53-year-old Rimsky Yuen leaves after a tumultuous five-and-a-half year tenure under Chief Executive Carrie Lam and her predecessor Leung Chun-ying.

On Friday, Lam attributed Yuen’s resignation to personal reasons. Local media reports suggest he will return to private practice.

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.