Teresa Cheng (politician)
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Teresa Cheng Politician

Teresa Cheng

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4th Secretary for Justice of Hong Kong

6 January 2018
Carrie Lam
Rimsky Yuen
Personal details
Born (1958-11-11) 11 November 1958 (age 62)
Hong Kong
Herman Li Hong-wah
(m. 1987; div. 2010)

Otto Poon Lok-to
(m. 2016)
ResidenceVilla De Mer, Tuen Mun
Alma materKing's College London (BSc)
University of London (LLB)
ProfessionArbitrator, barrister, engineer, politician
Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese

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).

Academic and legal career

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.[1] 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.[1] She has also sat as a Deputy Judge in the Court of First Instance of the High Court of Hong Kong.[2]

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.[3]

Public career

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.[2]

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.[2]

Secretary for Justice

On 5 January 2018, Chief executive Carrie Lam announced her appointment as the Secretary for Justice with effect from the following day, succeeding the retiring Rimsky Yuen.[4]

Illegal structures controversy

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.[5] 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.[6] Lawrence Lok Ying-kam SC asked Cheng to consider her resignation.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9]

UGL case controversy

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.[10] 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.[11]

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".[12] 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.[13]

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.[13] 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.[13]

2019-20 Hong Kong protests

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".[14]

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.[15]

In January 2021, Cheng stated her support for the National Security Law, claiming that One Country, Two Systems had not been undermined by the law.[16]

U.S. sanctions

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.[17]

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.[18][19][20]

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.[21][22] Analogue Holdings was awarded government contracts worth HK$1.2 billion in financial year 2018-2019.[23]

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.[24]

Separation of Powers

In September 2020, Teresa Cheng wrote commentary on SCMP, saying that separation of powers between branches of government "has no place" in Hong Kong.[25]

Attacks on the judiciary

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.[26] 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."[27] In January 2021, the Bar Association's chairman, Philip Dykes, reiterated that Cheng should take action against baseless criticisms against judges.[28]

Personal life

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.[29] 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.[30] 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.[31]

Properties she owns by herself or through her companies (Sparkle Star Development, Westland Investment and Super Alliance Co. Ltd)[31] include:

  • No. 4 Villa de Mer, Tuen Mun[5]- the property that was discovered to have illegal structures. Bought in 2008 for HK $26 million.[30] Purchased by her company, Sparkle Star Development.[5]
  • 1 residential property at Royal Ascot, Block 7[32] in Sha Tin.[31] Owned by Westland Investment.[33] Bought in 2006 for HK $5.95 million.[32]
  • 1 industrial property in Sha Tin.[31] Owned by Westland Investment.[33]
  • 1 unit at Sea Cliff Mansions, 19C Repulse Bay Road- bought in 2017 for HK $62M, with 4.25% stamp duty designed for "first-time buyers"[31] even though she already owned other property at the time of purchase, saving her HK $6.7 million in stamp duty.[31] The property is on the third floor of block A,[34] and also had illegal structures.[35]
  • 1 residential property in Beijing[31]
  • 1 residential property in Yunnan[31]

Properties her husband owns include:

  • A property adjacent to Cheng's property at 4 Villa de Mer.[31] An illegal pool was found and Poon was fined HK $20,000.[36] Bought in 2012 for HK $27 million.[30]
  • 1 unit at The Albany- bought in 2018[36] for HK $89.9 million under his own name[37]
  • 1 unit at 1 Robinson Road- bought in 2018.[36] The unit was originally purchased in 2011 for HK $53.5 million by Polycool Limited, a company which was completely owned by another company- Palette Capital, a British Virgin Islands registered offshore firm. Poon bought Polycool from Palette Capital for HK $78.8 million, giving him full ownership of the property without changing the owner (Polycool), escaping more than HK $10 million in stamp duty.[37]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Teresa Cheng GBS, SC, JP". Des Voeux Chambers.
  2. ^ a b c "Teresa Cheng, GBS, SC, JP" (PDF). Department of Justice.
  3. ^ "Prof Teresa CHENG Yeuk-wah GBS, SC, JP". Financial Dispute Resolution Centre.
  4. ^ "Teresa Cheng takes reins as Hong Kong secretary for justice as Rimsky Yuen leaves office". South China Morning Post. 5 January 2018.
  5. ^ a b c "Teresa Cheng's mortgage under scrutiny as US sanctions cut bank ties". South China Morning Post. 21 August 2020. Retrieved 2020.
  6. ^ "Hong Kong justice secretary Teresa Cheng apologises on first day in office for controversy over 'illegal structures' in her home". South China Morning Post. 6 January 2018.
  7. ^ "Hong Kong buildings inspectors to begin probe into suspected illegal structures at new justice chief's home". South China Morning Post. 8 January 2018.
  8. ^ "Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam backs under-fire justice chief Teresa Cheng as mortgage deed raises new questions". South China Morning Post. 11 January 2018.
  9. ^ "Hong Kong justice chief Teresa Cheng avoids prosecution again over illegal structures". South China Morning Post. 24 December 2018.
  10. ^ "Former Hong Kong chief executive CY Leung cleared of any wrongdoing over HK$50 million UGL payment after four-year ICAC probe". South China Morning Post. 12 December 2018.
  11. ^ "Democrats ponder next move after justice department ends investigation into former Hong Kong leader CY Leung". South China Morning Post. 14 December 2018.
  12. ^ "Hong Kong justice chief Teresa Cheng under fire after rejecting calls to further explain CY Leung's UGL payment case". South China Morning Post. 26 December 2018.
  13. ^ a b c "Hong Kong lawmakers vote down no-confidence motion against embattled justice chief Teresa Cheng over dropped CY Leung case". South China Morning Post. 28 January 2018.
  14. ^ Cheng, Kris (9 October 2019). "'Disastrous performance': Carrie Lam's rating plunges to lowest among any Hong Kong Chief Exec. yet". Hong Kong Free Press. Retrieved 2019.
  15. ^ Cheng, Kris (15 November 2019). "Hong Kong Justice Sec. Teresa Cheng 'injured' in brush with London protesters". Hong Kong Free Press. Retrieved 2019.
  16. ^ "'Beijing had every right to introduce security law' - RTHK". news.rthk.hk. Retrieved 2021.
  17. ^ Liu, Mingyang (8 August 2020). "The Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is formally established with Carrie Lam as chairman". Xinhua Net. Archived from the original on 8 August 2020. Retrieved 2020.
  18. ^ "US sanctions Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, police chief and 9 other top officials for 'undermining autonomy'". Hong Kong Free Press HKFP. 7 August 2020. Retrieved 2020.
  19. ^ Macias, Amanda (7 August 2020). "U.S. sanctions Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam for carrying out Chinese 'policies of suppression'". CNBC. Retrieved 2020.
  20. ^ "Treasury Sanctions Individuals for Undermining Hong Kong's Autonomy". United States Department of the Treasury. 7 August 2020. Retrieved 2020.
  21. ^ "Justice chief's spouse sells stake in US business in wake of US sanctions". The Standard. 11 August 2020. Retrieved 2020.
  22. ^ "2%". . 12 August 2020.
  23. ^ "Justice minister's company links renew debate on declaring interests". South China Morning Post. 24 July 2019. Retrieved 2020.
  24. ^ U.S. Department of State. "Identification of Foreign Persons Involved in the Erosion of the Obligations of China Under the Joint Declaration or the Basic Law". Archived from the original on 14 October 2020. Retrieved 2020.
  25. ^ "'Separation of powers' has no place in Hong Kong, justice chief says". South China Morning Post. 9 September 2020. Retrieved 2020.
  26. ^ "'State media must stop attacks on HK's judiciary' - RTHK". news.rthk.hk. Retrieved 2020.
  27. ^ "Justice minister should defend judiciary against media attacks, says Hong Kong Bar Association | Apple Daily". Apple Daily ? (in Chinese). Retrieved 2020.
  28. ^ "'Justice chief obliged to stop attacks on judges' - RTHK". news.rthk.hk. Retrieved 2021.
  29. ^ "?!?". Apple Daily (in Chinese). 6 January 2018.
  30. ^ a b c "Teresa Cheng controversy deepens as she reveals marriage to neighbour". South China Morning Post. 7 January 2018. Retrieved 2020.
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h i Cheng, Kris (23 January 2018). "New Justice Sec. Teresa Cheng saved HK$6.7m in stamp duty buying additional flat as first-time homeowner". Hong Kong Free Press HKFP. Retrieved 2020.
  32. ^ a b Kong, Dimsumdaily Hong (4 September 2020). "Secretary of Justice, Teresa Cheng redeems Standard Chartered mortgage in full for two properties in Tuen Mun and Sha Tin after being sanctioned by U.S." Dimsum Daily. Retrieved 2020.
  33. ^ a b "Executive Council - Register of Members' Interests". www.ceo.gov.hk. Retrieved 2020.
  34. ^ "Deal signed for Cheng's HK$62m flat although illegal structures specified". South China Morning Post. 22 January 2018. Retrieved 2020.
  35. ^ "Justice chief paid first time buyer's stamp duty on HK$62m unit".
  36. ^ a b c "Teresa Cheng may have broken Exco rules: Regina Ip - RTHK". news.rthk.hk. Retrieved 2020.
  37. ^ a b "Justice chief under fire for not declaring husband's luxury properties". South China Morning Post. 30 May 2019. Retrieved 2020.
Political offices
Preceded by
Rimsky Yuen
Secretary for Justice
Order of precedence
Preceded by
Paul Chan
Financial Secretary
Hong Kong order of precedence
Secretary for Justice
Succeeded by
Andrew Leung
President of the Legislative Council

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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