sitting for The Honorable Mr Justice Leong Chief Judge of
the High Court
I have convened this special sitting
in the High Court to mark the retirement of Mr Justice Leong
as Chief Judge of that Court.
Mr Justice Leong's working life began nearly half a century
ago in 1954, when he joined the Hong Kong Government as a
civil servant after completing his secondary education at
Wah Yan College, Kowloon. For 9 years between 1954 and 1963,
he worked successively in the then Prisons Department, the
Royal Observatory and the Labour Department. It has often
been said that experience of the world is important for an
understanding of how the law functions and these 9 years of
working experience must have stood him in good stead for his
subsequent work in the legal field.
In 1963, Mr Justice Leong decided to leave Government and
to read for the Bar which could then only be done in England.
This was a bold decision. At that time, the Government scholarship
scheme for civil servants to study law had not yet been established
and he had to finance his study from his own savings.
He was called to the Bar at the Middle Temple in 1965. In
1966, he returned to Hong Kong to join the then Legal Department's,
which then only had 39 lawyers. He was soon promoted to Crown
Counsel and spent altogether 7 years there.
In 1973, he left the Legal Department to join the Judiciary.
The Legal Department's loss was our gain. Thus, he began three
decades of dedicated service to the Judiciary. And I am the
4th Chief Justice to have the honour and pleasure of serving
with Mr Justice Leong.
After serving as a Magistrate, he was appointed as a Presiding
Officer of the Labour Tribunal. That tribunal had just been
established and its formative years owed much to his pioneering
work. He was elevated to the District Court in 1982, to the
then High Court in 1991 and to the Court of Appeal in 1997.
In 2001, he kindly agreed to delay his retirement to answer
the call of duty to serve as Chief Judge of the High Court.
Apart from the Judiciary, he served the community in other
capacities. He had served for 6 years as Chairman of the Administrative
Appeals Board, 9 years as Chairman of the Municipal Services
Appeal Board, 10 years as President of the Long Term Prison
Sentences Review Board and 8 years as Member and then as Chairman
of the Advisory Committee on Post-retirement Employment. He
had also participated for many years in the important work
of the Society of Rehabilitation and Crime Prevention, including
as its Chairman and currently as its President. He is active
in his church, the China Congregational Church, serving as
Vice Chairman and Chairman.
It can be seen that Mr Justice Leong's working life, including
his judicial career of 30 years, has spanned the most momentous
decades in our history. These decades have witnessed fundamental
changes, economically, politically and socially, in our community.
During this time, the independent Judiciary has not merely
grown in size but has matured and developed as an institution.
In the last three decades, Mr Justice Leong has played his
full part in and has made an enormous contribution to the
As a Judge, Mr Justice Leong was versatile. His important
contribution covered a wide field, including both civil and
criminal cases, and embraces both trial work at all levels
and in recent years, appellate work. He has made a particularly
significant contribution to the development of the bilingual
capacity of our courts. In relation to the use of Chinese,
his work has been of pivotal importance.
Mr Justice Leong is widely respected for his admirable qualities:
his dedicated hard work, his conscientiousness and thoroughness,
his decency and fairness and his unfailing courtesy. Here
is a judge who eschewed any flamboyance and went about his
work with quiet confidence and effective competence. He wore
the mantle of authority and discharged his responsibilities
with utmost integrity and with modesty and humility.
Above all, Mr Justice Leong has a deep understanding of the
judicial role, an understanding which he put into practice
day in and day out in his court. He has a keen appreciation
that the role of a judge is to understand the evidence and
arguments presented by the parties, to consider them conscientiously
and to adjudicate on the dispute fairly. It could confidently
be said that over his judicial career of 30 years, all litigants
before him, win or lose, would emerge from his court satisfied
that they had had a fair hearing. And I venture to suggest
that their experience in his court would have enhanced their
respect for the courts and our judicial system.
Throughout Mr Justice Leong's working life, the devotion of
his wife and family have been a great source of strength and
support for him. They have every reason to be very proud of
his tremendous achievements, achievements which were deservedly
recognised by the community by the award of the Gold Bauhinia
Star in the recent Honours List.
I am extremely grateful to Mr Justice Leong for the unstinting
support he has given to me as Chief Justice. For this gentleman
of gentlemen, both in and out of court, it could truly be
said of his judicial career that he has fought the good fight,
he has finished the race, he has kept the faith.
He is retiring from the Bench. But I am sure he will continue
to contribute to the community in various capacities in his
retirement. On behalf of the Bench, I thank him most sincerely
for his dedicated contribution to the Judiciary and I wish
him good health and every happiness.
4 July 2003