|4th Secretary for Justice of Hong Kong|
6 January 2018
|Born||11 November 1958|
Herman Li Hong-wah
(m. 1987; div. 2010)
Otto Poon Lok-to
|Residence||Villa De Mer, Tuen Mun|
|Alma mater||King's College London (BSc)|
University of London (LLB)
|Profession||Arbitrator, barrister, engineer, politician|
|Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah|
Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah (Chinese: ; born 11 November 1958) is a Hong Kong Senior Counsel, arbitrator and politician. She has been the Secretary for Justice of Hong Kong since 6 January 2018. She was also the chairperson of the Financial Dispute Resolution Centre, the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) and vice-president of the International Council of Commercial Arbitration (ICCA).
Cheng graduated from the King's College London with the Bachelor of Science in Engineering and the University of London with the Bachelor of Laws. She was called to the Bar in England and Wales and Hong Kong in 1987 and in New South Wales, Australia in 1990, before Singapore in 1995. She was called to the Hong Kong Inner Bar in 2000. Prior to her appointment as Secretary for Justice, Cheng practiced at Des Voeux Chambers, specialising in construction, international commercial transactions, joint venture contracts and investment arbitration, international arbitration and mediation. She has also sat as a Deputy Judge in the Court of First Instance of the High Court of Hong Kong.
Cheng also holds several academic positions. She is a Fellow of King's College London, previously an honorary and visiting professor of the China University of Political Science and Law and the course director of the International Arbitration and Dispute Settlement Course at the School of Law, Tsinghua University and Adjunct Professor with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Cheng co-authored numerous books and articles, including "Construction Law and Practice in Hong Kong" and "Arbitration in Hong Kong: A Practical Guide", published by Sweet & Maxwell, and papers in the "International Council for Commercial Arbitration Congress Series", published by Kluwer Law International.
She has been appointed in various positions, previously serving as the chairperson for the Provisional Minimum Wage Commission, Transport Advisory Committee, Town Planning Appeal Board, Environmental Impact Assessment Appeal Board Panel, the Appeal Tribunal (Buildings) Panel and the Copyright Tribunal among others. She is the current chairperson of the Financial Dispute Resolution Centre and Air Transport Licensing Authority and a member of the Construction Industry Council and two Working Groups on Mediation in Hong Kong.
She is also the chairperson of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) and vice-president of the International Council of Commercial Arbitration (ICCA). She was the first Asian woman to be elected as president of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb). In 2006 and 2011, she was awarded the Bronze Bauhinia Star and Gold Bauhinia Star by the Chief executive Donald Tsang in recognition of her public service.
Ming Pao and Apple Daily revealed on 5 January 2018, just before Cheng was due to take office, that there was an extra staircase seemingly leading to illegal structures in her residence at No. 4 Villa de Mer, 5 Lok Chui Street, Siu Lam, Tuen Mun. She apologised for the "inconvenience caused" by the illegal structures, admitting it was illegal but arguing that the basements and rooftop structures in question on both properties existed before she bought the residence. Lawrence Lok Ying-kam SC asked Cheng to consider her resignation. Further reports, confirmed by Buildings Department inspectors, revealed that there were ten unauthorised extensions, including the basements and the rooftop structures, on Cheng's residence and an adjacent property belonging to her husband, Otto Poon Lok-to. It emerged in the media reports in the following days that a mortgage deed Cheng signed with the bank for the house did not mention the basement.
In December 2018, the Buildings Department announced three units with problematic structures of the Cheng's properties "had been corrected" and Cheng would not be prosecuted over illegal structures but they would only charge Cheng's engineer husband Otto Poon over suspected unauthorised structures at their homes in Tuen Mun.
On 12 December 2018, the Department of Justice also issued a statement claiming there was "insufficient evidence to support a reasonable prospect of conviction" against former Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for any criminal offence over Leung's receipt of HK$50 million from Australian engineering firm UGL. Many critics, including former Director of Public Prosecutions Grenville Cross, said he found it "very surprising" that no independent legal advice was sought on Leung's case and urged the Secretary for Justice to explain. "For many years, this has been the invariable practice whenever a senior government official has been suspected of a criminal offence," Cross said. The Democratic Party also considered asking for a judicial review of the Department of Justice's decision.
Hundreds of protesters demonstrated against the government's decision on 23 December. Cheng, who was under fire and demanded a more detailed explanation kept silence for two weeks until Cheng returned from her leave on 26 December. She dismissed suggestions that she had been on official leave since 15 December to avoid facing the public "spurious". She also argued the issues were being "politicised". She rejected the need to give further explanations on the Leung case, including of whether she was personally involved in the decision not to prosecute Leung, and also rejected the Bar Association's call to delegate prosecution decisions to the top prosecutor.
Her popular ratings fell to a new low among senior officials, according to two new polls conducted by the University of Hong Kong and Chinese University of Hong Kong. The opposition pro-democrats mounted a no-confidence motion, tabled by Dennis Kwok, against Cheng. Cheng survived with the no-confidence motion with the support of the pro-Beijing legislators.
Cheng was considered a key figure in the drafting of the extradition bill that led to the 2019-20 Hong Kong protests. In October 2019, Cheng's public approval ratings dropped to 14.7 points out of 100, the lowest among the top officials in Hong Kong according to a poll conducted by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, categorizing her performance as "disastrous".
Following the death of Chow Tsz-lok, Cheng was heckled and jostled by supporters of the protests in London, who called her "murderer", when she was entering Bloomsbury Square to give a lecture. She fell on the ground and injured her arm.
On 3 July 2020, the Chinese official media, Xinhua news agent, stated that the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was formally established. There were 10 members of the committee. As the Secretary for Justice of Hong Kong, Cheng was a member of the committee.
In August 2020, Cheng and ten other officials were sanctioned by the United States Department of the Treasury under Executive Order 13936 by President Trump for undermining Hong Kong's autonomy.
Analogue Holdings Limited (ATAL; 1977) a company controlled by Poon Lok-To, spouse of Cheng, announced on 11 August that it has sold back 2% of shares of Transel Elevator & Electric Inc. (TEI) at cost to Mark Gregorio, chairman of TEI, for US$1.4 million (approximately HK$10.92 million) to reduce ATAL's interest from 51% to 49% after the sanction against Teresa Cheng. Analogue Holdings was awarded government contracts worth HK$1.2 billion in financial year 2018-2019.
On October 14, 2020, the United States Department of State released a report on 10 individuals who materially contributed to the failure of the China to meet its obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and Hong Kong's Basic Law. Cheng was on the list.
In December 2020, five members of the Law Society asked that Cheng defend the judicial system from attacks by mainland state media, after People's Daily claimed that granting Jimmy Lai bail had hurt Hong Kong's rule of law, and claimed that he should be tried in the mainland. The Hong Kong Bar Association also made a similar request, saying that Cheng must "take appropriate action and come forward to staunchly defend the independence of the judiciary." In January 2021, the Bar Association's chairman, Philip Dykes, reiterated that Cheng should take action against baseless criticisms against judges.
Cheng is married to engineer Otto Poon Lok-to, former president of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers. Their relationship was unknown to the public until she admitted to the public after the media widely reported the "illegal structures" of her residence next to Poon's. In 2014, Poon's ex-wife was awarded a divorce payout of HK $766 million, about half of his HK $1.5 billion family trust. Poon is also a member of the Election Committee and voted for Carrie Lam in 2017.
According to her declaration of interests, Cheng is a member of several private clubs including the Hong Kong Jockey Club, Hong Kong Club, Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, and Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club.
Properties she owns by herself or through her companies (Sparkle Star Development, Westland Investment and Super Alliance Co. Ltd) include:
Properties her husband owns include: