Hong Kong’s Department of Justice (DOJ) has appointed Principal Government Counsel Maggie Yang Mei-kei as the city’s seventh Director of Public Prosecutions.

The appointment of Yang comes just three weeks after her appointment to the bar in late July. She takes on the new role immediately, more than a year after the previous director David Leung resigned citing differences with Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng.

Director of Public Prosecutions Maggie Yang
Photo: GovHK.

Yang will oversee the department’s Prosecutions Division, taking over from Acting Director of Public Prosecutions William Tam who had been carrying out the role jointly in three month rotations since January.

The department said the barrister was chosen through a “promotion-cum-open recruitment exercise.”

After being called to the bar on July 24, Yang told StandNews that she believed the DOJ had a “conviction” and a “mission” and that her life goal was to “serve justice.”

The new director is also involved in a high profile national security case involving 47 democrats who are facing charges of “conspiracy to commit subversion” over their involvement in a primary election for the democratic camp last July.

‘Fair and impartial’

Secretary Cheng welcomed Yang’s appointment on Friday.

“Ms Yang is a lawyer of outstanding abilities and integrity. I am confident that she is competent to lead the Prosecutions Division to rise to the challenges ahead and discharge her role as the Director of Public Prosecutions in a fair and impartial manner,” the secretary said in a statement.

Department of Justice
Department of Justice. Photo: GovHK.

Cheng also cited Yang’s solid professional knowledge, her criminal law experience  and strong leadership skills.

The vast bulk of Yang’s 28 years in the department has been in the prosecutions division, rising to becoming principal government counsel in 2019. She was admitted as a solicitor in the UK in 1992 and in Hong Kong in 1993.

She takes over the position as cases pile up relating to the 2019 pro-democracy unrest and the national security law.

As of late July, the District Court has been assigned over 300 protest-related cases, the majority of which are still pending.

The DOJ has seen a high number of resignations in recent years under Secretary Cheng’s leadership. In June, Cheng told the Legislative Council that around 60 members of staff had left the department in the past four years.

Teresa Cheng
File photo: GovHK.

The government has since proposed changes to the law to allow government legal officers to be appointed as senior counsel.

The department has refused multiple requests from HKFP to release its turnover rate in the past four years, saying such a  disclosure would “harm or prejudice the proper and efficient conduct of the operations and management of the staff of the Department.” 

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Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.