Two prominent overseas judges – Baroness Hale and former Canadian Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin – are set to be appointed as the first female non-permanent judges at Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal, the government has announced.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Wednesday morning that she has accepted the recommendation of a judicial commission overseeing the matter. The appointments will be finalised following the endorsement of the Legislative Council.

Baroness Hale and former Canadian Chief Justice McLachlin. Photo: Wikicommons remix.

“As the first female Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, I am thrilled that – if appointed – Baroness Hale and Ms McLachlin will be the first female judges to the Court of Final Appeal. Their appointment is a historic moment in Hong Kong.”

The appointment of McLachlin will also mark the first non-permanent judge from Canada to sit on Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal. Judge McLachlin was the first female Chief Justice of Canada and retired last December, while Baroness Hale was the first woman to become president of the UK Supreme Court.

‘Judicial independence’ 

Lam said that, following the two appointments, there will be 14 judges from the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada on the panel of non-permanent judges from other common law jurisdictions: “The presence of these non-permanent judges manifests the judicial independence of Hong Kong,” she said.

It was also announced on Wednesday that Lam accepted a recommendation to appoint High Court Chief Judge Andrew Cheung as a Court of Final Appeal permanent judge from October 25, 2018. Lam said that Cheung is “an outstanding lawyer” who has dealt with high-profile cases relating to administrative and constitutional law.

Meanwhile, current permanent judge Robert Tang will be appointed as a non-permanent judge of the Court of Final Appeal following his retirement, also subject to the legislature’s endorsement.

Dennis Kwok. Fuke Photo: In-Media.

Legal sector lawmaker Dennis Kwok said that he believed it was important for there to be female judges at the top court and that it would provide “balance.”

“I think this is a breakthrough,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

Kwok also congratulated Cheung on his appointment and gave his thanks to Judge Tang: “I think this is a very good arrangement – having such experienced judicial talent from overseas courts come to Hong Kong shows that the standards of Hong Kong’s judicial system and independence will continue to rise.”


Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.