Citation for Mr. WONG Yan Lung, SC


Dr. Wong Yan-Lung, SC, and Professor Nadja Alexander

HKSYU The 38th Graduation Ceremony Citation

The Honourable Mr. WONG Yan Lung, SC

Doctor of Laws, honoris causa

A citation written and delivered by Professor Nadja Alexander

What becomes of a boy from a humble background, who stands firm against the winds of peer pressure and the authority of conventional wisdom, choosing to follow his principles and his heart instead?

Let me tell you. He wins a scholarship to Cambridge, tops his year at college with first class honors, returns to Hong Kong to embark on an illustrious career as a leading barrister before being appointed Secretary for Justice at 41 years of age.

I refer, of course, to Mr Wong Yan Lung—immediate past Secretary for Justice of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

During his seven-year term as Secretary for Justice (October 2005 – June 2012), Mr Wong embodied a robust leadership, balancing a rigourously intellectual approach with a political pragmatism that served Hong Kong well. He demonstrated that leadership means serving others; leadership means listening to, and acknowledging, different views, and then, drawing out of that rich pool of diversity that is Hong Kong, that which really matters.

Such an approach nurtures the internationality of Hong Kong—an oasis of cultural resilience, where the energetic friction of diversity continually offers up new springs of knowledge. This facilitative yet firm leadership style is also reflected in the timeless wisdom of the famous Chinese General Lin:


Be open to diverse views, like the ocean that can carry all the river water flowing into it;

Be able to uphold justice uncompromised by personal desires, like a cliff standing steep without falling unto either side.

As Hong Kong’s first officer of the law, Mr Wong’s achievements, from criminal law to constitutional law and beyond, are too numerous to list here.  I would like, however, to draw your attention to a number of his significant accomplishments.

Mr Wong’s longstanding commitment to the youth of Hong Kong led him to establish the Taskforce Against Youth Drug Abuse, the recommendations of which have been significant in shaping a pro-active youth anti-drug programme in Hong Kong today. This was an unusual but well-received initiative for a Secretary for Justice. Its ongoing success is a tribute to Mr Wong’s perseverance in achieving a cross-government response for this most challenging of social issues.

Other highlights of Mr Wong’s term reflect his vision of Hong Kong as a world class centre for international dispute resolution, embracing mediation, arbitration and litigation.

To this end Mr Wong established and chaired a cross-sector Working Group on Mediation to make recommendations on ways to facilitate greater use of mediation in Hong Kong. The resulting Report of the Working Group on Mediation (‘The Hong Kong Mediation Report’) recommended the formation of a Mediation Taskforce, which Mr Wong chaired. As a member of that Taskforce, I was struck by the combination of intellectual insight and ability to engage in practical problem-solving, which Mr Wong contributed to every meeting.  He was very much an active, hands-on member of the Mediation Taskforce and instrumental in its achievements. Within an extraordinarily short time frame the Taskforce brought home a Mediation Ordinance (the first mediation legislation in Hong Kong), finalised the blueprint for the Hong Kong Mediation Accreditation Association Limited, and developed a high profile public communications campaign on mediation involving television, radio, print media and international conferences—all under Mr Wong’s leadership.

Furthermore, during his term Mr Wong was instrumental in promoting Hong Kong arbitration for cross-border and international disputes as well as modernising the Arbitration Ordinance. Significantly, he facilitated the establishment in Hong Kong of the first branch of the arbitration arm of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) outside Paris.

In another first, Mr Wong convincingly lobbied for the Hague Conference on Private International Law to establish an Asia Pacific regional office in Hong Kong. He tirelessly protected the integrity of the rule of law in Hong Kong, which underpins the Territory’s excellent international reputation for litigation before independent, competent and fair-minded judges.

In the new world of one country two systems, Mr Wong navigated unchartered territory in relation to the interface between the legal jurisdictions of Hong Kong and Mainland China. He approached unprecedented and sometimes seemingly intractable issues with his trademark  balance of humility and open mindedness, on one hand, and willingness to stand firm on values, on the other. His personal and principled style has allowed him to build broad bridges of trust and dialogue between Hong Kong and Mainland China, and these will last long into the future.

Mr Wong Yan Lung is a graduate of Queen’s College in Causeway Bay. Hong Kong’s first government college, Queen’s College is well-known for its focus on maths and science. Mr Wong, however, chose to pursue arts, history, debating, and most of all, classical Chinese literature.  He stayed with these subjects and excelled, achieving top marks and winning a Prince Philip Scholarship to the University of Cambridge. Mr Wong graduated from Magdalene College, University of Cambridge in 1986 and was conferred Bachelor of Arts (Law) and Master of Arts (Law) Degrees. After graduating from Cambridge, Mr Wong was offered a scholarship to undertake a Masters degree at the University of Michigan in the United States. He chose not to accept the scholarship but rather to return home to Hong Kong where his family needed his support.

In 1987, Mr Wong was called to the Bar in England and Wales and, in the same year, he was also called to the Bar in Hong Kong. He was a pupil of Hong Kong’s former Chief Justice, Mr Andrew Li, a man he says was a mentor to him in every sense of the word. Mr Wong was appointed as Senior Counsel in 2002. He sat as Deputy High Court Judge of the Court of  First Instance in July and August in 2003, and was a Council member of the Council of the Hong Kong Bar Association for multiple terms during the period between 1989 and 2005. He also served as Chairman of the Special Committee on Legal Education of the Hong Kong Bar Association from 2003 to 2005.

Mr Wong was elected as a Master of the Bench of Middle Temple in October 2007 and was conferred an Honorary Fellowship by Magdalene College, University of Cambridge, in 2009. He was awarded the Grand Bauhinia Medal in July 2012 on account of his service to Hong Kong as Secretary for Justice.

Mr Wong has served as Chairman of the Buildings Appeal Tribunal, the Criminal and Law Enforcement Injuries Compensation Boards and the Non-local Higher and Professional Education Appeal Board.  He has also served as Vice-Chairman of the CEDAR Fund and a member of the Steering Committee and volunteer of the Hong Kong Christian Concern for the Homeless, and continues his contributions to both NGOs.

Today Mr Wong continues his public service in countless ways. True to the cyclical nature of things, he has recently returned from his alma mater, Cambridge, where he has given lectures and talks as a Visiting Fellow. In January 2013 he will return to the private bar in Hong Kong.

Mr President, I commend to you the Mr Wong Yan Lung for the award of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

Source: December Issue 2012

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