Open main menu

The Honourable Andrew Li Kwok-nang, CBE, GBM, JP (Chinese: 李國能; born December 1948) is a retired Hong Kong judge, and a former Chief Justice of Hong Kong, who was the first to preside over the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal, established on 1 July 1997. Li was succeeded by Geoffrey Ma on 1 September 2010.

The Honourable
Andrew Li (李國能)
1st Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal
In office
1 July 1997 – 31 August 2010
Appointed by Tung Chee-Hwa
Succeeded by Geoffrey Ma
Deputy High Court Judge
In office
Deputy Judge of the District Court
In office
Member of the Executive Council of Hong Kong
In office
October 1992 – 1996
Personal details
Born December 1948 (age 69)
British Hong Kong
Nationality Chinese
Alma mater Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge (MA, LL.M)


Early life and educationEdit

Born in Hong Kong, Andrew Li received his early education at St. Paul's Co-educational College, and then at Repton School in Derbyshire, England. He earned an MA and LLM from the University of Cambridge, where he was a scholar at Fitzwilliam College.

Legal careerEdit

Li was called to the Middle Temple in 1970, and the Hong Kong Bar in 1973.[1] His first ever pupil was Audrey Eu, who commenced her pupillage in 1978. Her brother and senior counsel Benjamin Yu was also Li's pupil.[2] Former Secretary for Justice Wong Yan Lung was Li's last pupil.[3] In 1988, he was appointed Queen's Counsel.

He was appointed a Deputy Judge of the District Court of Hong Kong in 1982 and a Deputy High Court Judge in 1991. In 1997, Li was elevated to Chief Justice by Tung Chee-Hwa, the first chief executive of Hong Kong after the handover. There he developed a moderate jurisprudence and was a consensus builder in the Court of Final Appeal.

In 1999, he gave the leading judgment in Ng Ka Ling and Others v. Director of Immigration,[4] which was at the centre of the right of abode controversy.

In 2000, Li set up a working party, consisting of judges, lawyers and academics, to introduce reforms on minimising the complexity of High Court civil litigation procedures, widening judges' discretionary powers to manage the progress of cases and requiring lawyers to justify their charges. An interim report was released in 2001, containing 80 recommendations, some of which mirror those in the Woolf Reforms in England.[5] Known as the Civil Justice Reform, the final report was released on 3 March 2004, setting out 150 recommendations.[6] It has come into effect on 2 April 2009.[7]

In 2008, Li received the Grand Bauhinia Medal.[8]

Li announced his decision to resign early from his position as Chief Justice on 25 August 2009, ceasing service on 31 August 2010 and commencing pre-retirement leave on 1 September 2010, three years before retirement age.[9] He would leave public life upon retirement.[10] Li's announcement that he intended to take early retirement came as a surprise, prompting widespread speculation that there had been pressure from Beijing, according to the South China Morning Post. Li, however, stressed his retirement was in the best interests of the judiciary and would be conducive to orderly succession planning of the judiciary[11] as three other permanent judges on the Court of Final Appeal were to reach retirement age between 2012 and 2014. He also said the judiciary had been under his leadership for 13 years, which was a long time, and that retirement was consistent with his personal wishes. He dismissed speculation that he resigned due to political pressure.[12][13]

On 18 February 2010, Li achieved the highest score ever recorded (68.1) by the University of Hong Kong Public Opinion Programme.[14][15]

On 8 April 2010, it was announced that Chief Executive Donald Tsang had accepted the recommendation of the Judicial Officers Recommendation Commission to appoint Geoffrey Ma as Li's successor.[16] On 9 June 2010, Ma was formally endorsed unanimously by Hong Kong legislators.[17] But pro-democracy members remained concerned at the implications of Li's resignation. Margaret Ng said: "The public is deeply worried that [Li's resignation] signals an era in which judicial independence will gradually yield to the influence and intervention of Beijing ... but I believe the challenges have always been there, openly at times, but unceasingly as an undercurrent." Emily Lau said many people were unnerved by Li's decision to resign, and that "Hong Kong cannot afford another surprise resignation."[11]

On 17 July 2010, a farewell ceremony was held for Li. It was attended by judges and lawyers, including representatives of the Law Society of Hong Kong and the Bar Association.[18]

Extra-judicial lifeEdit

Li was appointed justice of the peace in 1985. In 1992, he was appointed member at-large of the Executive Council of Chris Patten (later Lord Patten), the last British governor of Hong Kong, and was appointed Commander of the Order of British Empire the same year.

Li has also served as the Deputy Chairman of the Inland Revenue Board of Review, the Securities Commission, the Law Reform Commission, the Standing Committee on Company Law Reform, the Banking Advisory Committee, and the Judicial Services Commission. He also held the post of secretary of the Hong Kong Bar Association. He was also a steward of the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

On the education front, he is currently Vice-Chairman of the Council of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Chairman of the University and Polytechnics Grants Committee. He is a trustee of the Friends of Tsinghua University Law School Charitable Trust. He is also the Vice-Chairman of the School Council of St. Paul's Co-educational College of Hong Kong.

In 2001, he was awarded an honorary doctor of laws by the University of Hong Kong.[1]

In August 2010, he was appointed as honorary professor of law by the University of Hong Kong, Chinese University of Hong Kong and the City University of Hong Kong. His appointments took effect on 1 September 2010 after his retirement from the post of Chief Justice.[19][20]

In 2013, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Civil Law by the University of Oxford.[21]


  1. ^ a b Raymond Wacks. "Andrew Kwok Nang LI Citation". Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 2 March 2010.
  2. ^ "好法官獲讚良師益友嚴上司 首徒余若薇﹕網羅才俊知人善任". Ming Pao. 17 July 2010. Retrieved 18 July 2010.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ "黃仁龍引小說 願師父享受退休". 17 July 2010. Archived from the original on 20 July 2010. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  4. ^ "FACV No. 14-16 of 1998".
  5. ^ "Law Reform". 30 November 2001. Retrieved 18 September 2010.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "Civil Justice Reform – Archives". Government of Hong Kong. Retrieved 18 September 2010.
  7. ^ "Civil Justice Reform – Home". Government of Hong Kong. Retrieved 18 September 2010.
  8. ^ "Civil And Miscellaneous Lists". Government of Hong Kong. 1 July 2010. Retrieved 18 September 2010.
  9. ^ "李國能提早3年退休" (Andrew Li Retires 3 Years Early), Ming Pao, 2 September 2009.
  10. ^ "Early Retirement of the Honourable Chief Justice Andrew Li". Hong Kong Government. 2 September 2009. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
  11. ^ a b Wong, Albert (10 Jun 2010) "Lawmakers endorse Geoffrey Ma as top judge", South China Morning Post
  12. ^ HK Chief Justice Andrew Li to retire early
  13. ^ "28¤¸Ő¸¨šę š¸v§Yľôű – ŹPŽq¤éłřşôś". Sing Tao Daily. Archived from the original on 5 August 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2010.
  14. ^ "頭條日報 頭條網 – 李國能評分歷史新高". Retrieved 18 September 2010.
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Appointment of the Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal". Hong Kong Government. 8 April 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2010.
  17. ^ Phila Siu and Colleen Lee (10 June 2010). "Ma confirmed as next chief justice". The Standard. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 10 June 2010.
  18. ^ "李國能淚別終院 無悔無憾 自比「香港之子」 感激妻女支持". Ming Pao. 17 July 2010. Archived from the original on 18 July 2010. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  19. ^ "李國能任三大名譽教授 – 新浪網 – 新聞". Sina Corp. Archived from the original on 27 September 2010. Retrieved 18 September 2010.
  20. ^ " – University appointments for retiring CJ". RTHK. 23 August 2010. Retrieved 18 September 2010.[dead link]
  21. ^ "Oxford announces honorary degrees for 2013". University of Oxford. 15 February 2013. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
Legal offices
Preceded by
Noel Power
as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Hong Kong
Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal
Succeeded by
Geoffrey Ma
Order of precedence
Preceded by
Lee Shau-kee
Recipient of the Grand Bauhinia Medal
Hong Kong order of precedence
Recipient of the Grand Bauhinia Medal
Succeeded by
Henry Hu
Recipient of the Grand Bauhinia Medal