The government is set to announce that Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah will take over as the chief of the Department of Justice from January, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports, citing a source.
She will become the new Secretary for Justice after incumbent Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, who has held the post since 2012, will leave by the end of the year, the paper said.
The announcement is likely to come next week, paving way for a seamless handover, according to the source, who added that Beijing has agreed with the personnel change.
Yuen has already handed in his resignation, RTHK reported Thursday, citing sources. He is expected to leave his post by the end of December, enabling Cheng to assume the post starting January.
Yuen will leave after the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) completes a review of the so-called co-location arrangement for the Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link.
The NPCSC will conduct the review which will start this Friday and run until Wednesday next week.
The committee’s approval and endorsement represents Step 2 of a three-step process for implementing the co-location plan, which will see mainland border control officials operating in a special zone at West Kowloon terminus, the Hong Kong end of the cross-border high-speed rail link.
Yuen is set to leave for Beijing on Friday along with Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan and Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu to attend the NPCSC meeting.
It marks a first, given that such meetings were never attended by Hong Kong government officials before.
Asked by media if he has handed in his resignation, Yuen — after attending a Legislative Council meeting on Wednesday – reiterated twice that he doesn’t have anything to add at this current stage.
His expected replacement, Cheng, 59, is a senior counsel, chartered engineer, and an accredited mediator. She is currently honorary chairperson of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre and chairman of the Financial Dispute Resolution Centre.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, before she took office in July, had reportedly invited Cheng to be justice chief. Cheng refused the offer at that time, but is now willing to come on board, according to reports.
The reason she is now willing to take the job is because Lam has shown that her administration can have a smooth ride, six months into her regime.
That said, Cheng will be mistaken if she thinks her new job will be easy. She will have to deal with two controversial issues — legislating the co-location plan and a national anthem law.
Describing Cheng as a low-profile person who has never clearly expressed her political stance within the Hong Kong Bar Association, Civic Party chairman Alan Leong Kah-kit, who is also a senior counsel, urged her to stick to legal values and speak out for Hongkongers as justice chief, rather than just focus on meeting the political needs of the local government or Beijing.
As for Yuen, Leong accused him of putting legal professionalism aside when making decisions. Yuen was alleged to have tried to persuade Beijing not to interpret the Basic Law, but failed to do so, in relation to an oath-taking saga involving some newly elected legislators last year.
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