This January 13, 2003 File photo shows the Honourable Chief Justice, Mr Andrew Kwok-nang Li, inspecting the Guard of Honour at the Golden Bauhnia Square of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Hong Kong. [judiciary.gov.hk]
HONG KONG: Donald Tsang, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), announced Wednesday that he had accepted the early retirement of Chief Justice Andrew Kwok-nang Li.
Li has decided to take early retirement, and has written to Tsang to give notice of early retirement, ceasing service on August 31, 2010 and commencing pre-retirement leave on September 1, 2010.
Li became the first Chief Justice of the HKSAR on July 1, 1997. He will be 61 and would have served in his position for 13 years by August 2010 when he leaves office.
"I believe that my early retirement is in the best interests of the Judiciary. My early retirement will be conducive to orderly succession planning in the Judiciary in the coming years," said Li.
"Taking early retirement is also consistent with my personal wishes. I would have worked for over 37 years by August 2010," he said.
The Chief Justice considers it the greatest honor for him to serve as the first Chief Justice of Hong Kong in the new constitutional order as part of China under the principle "one country, two systems".
Tsang said he respected Chief Justice Li's personal decision and praised Li for his invaluable contribution to the successful operation of HKSAR's legal system and the implementation of the rule of law as prescribed by the Basic Law.
The Chief Executive thanked Li on behalf of the community for his long and exemplary service. He said Justice Li was instrumental in perfecting the Special Administrative Region's judiciary by enhancing its professionalism, transparency and service efficiency.
"I have asked the judiciary to activate the procedures to fill the vacancy of the Chief Justice in accordance with the Basic Law and other relevant legal provisions," said Tsang.
"I trust that Chief Justice Li will work closely with the Judicial Officers Recommendation Commission in the next few months to prepare for the selection of his successor," he said.
The Chief Justice reiterated that an independent Judiciary upholding the rule of law and safeguarding the rights and freedoms of the individual is a cornerstone of Hong Kong society.
In his letter to the Chief Executive, Li stated that the Administration under the leadership of Tsang and that of his predecessor has always respected judicial independence and he thanked the Administration for its support of the Judiciary's administration and operation.
Article 2 of the Basic Law prescribes that the National People's Congress authorizes the Special Administrative Region to exercise a high degree of autonomy and enjoy executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication, in accordance with the provisions of the Basic Law.