It’s my great honor and pleasure to be invited to speak on this occasion to honour Johannes and his contribution to the Faculty over the last 36 years.
Johannes is my longtime colleague as well as friend. I first knew him when we were classmates in the law school. That was 43 years ago, in 1978.
I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some of my previous encounters or collaborations with Johannes. But first, I want to go back to his secondary school student days. I was not his secondary school classmate, but I’ve read his latest book “眾裏尋她：公義在香港”, which is partly a Chinese translation of his English book “Paths of Justice”.
The first chapter talks about his student days and why he decided to study law. This is an important question because whenever we interview students for admission to law school, in days in which we did have such interviews, the first question we asked was “Why do you want to study law?” According to chapter one, Johannes originally wanted to study social work. Do you know why he decided to change his mind? That was because he joined a volunteers’ programme to help juvenile offenders. He came to know quite a lot of juvenile offenders who were put into prison, detention centres or training centres. He was quite disillusioned with the kind of social environment which produced such juvenile offenders. He also thought that the environment was such that many of these offenders after being released from prison or detention, would have a high chance of going back to crime. He felt that social workers would not be able to change such a situation. And his encounter with juvenile offenders and the legal system made him interested in law for the first time, and that’s why he decided to study law.
Johannes was admitted to HKU’s law school in 1978. He became my classmate, I was one year his senior. We had some collaborations during our student days. For example, I was editor of the student magazine called “Law Media” and Johannes was a member of the editorial board. One of the first articles Johannes published as a university student was an article published in Law Media. This article of his was published in Law Media in January 1979. In those days, this law student magazine was published mainly in English. But Johannes wrote an article in Chinese. We as editors particularly appreciated the Chinese contributions because most students wrote in English. Johannes’ article was entitled “中文，願你安息”. In this article, he talked all about students in other Faculties in this University expressing support for a movement to promote the status of the Chinese language. But it seems that the law students were not too interested in this movement.
There was another article published in Law Media in December 1979. This was Johannes’ interview with a lecturer called John Miller. In fact, Johannes did this interview together with a classmate called Lin Kam-hung, who is now a Magistrate. This article is an interview, there is one paragraph which particularly interests me. It refers to John Miller suggesting that “it would be a good idea to set up a legal clinic in the University, staffed by students, as part of the legal training, applying what they have learned in real situations. Doctors have their own clinics to practise, why not lawyers? By doing so, students could be of use to society but not at the expense of study.” I don’t know whether it was this interview with John Miller which planted this idea of legal clinic in Johannes’ mind, which led to his establishing our clinical program in this Faculty more than 30 years later.
After he finished his LLB and PCLL, Johannes went on to do the LLM at the London School of Economics, where he chose to study human rights. I believe that was because Johannes was genuinely interested in human rights, not because he had a crystal ball and could foresee that a few years later, Hong Kong was going to enact the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance, incorporating international human rights into Hong Kong. But it was a very nice coincidence that Johannes chose to study a subject which subsequently came to have great practical importance in Hong Kong’s legal development.
Johannes started teaching in the Faculty after he finished his LLM. I remember him as an extremely devoted teacher and popular as well. One thing I remember particularly is that he always went over time in teaching. For a tutorial which was supposed to last for 55 minutes, he would probably teach one and a half hour or more. He also won one of the Best Teacher Awards. In those days, the University did not confer any best teacher award. It was the Students’ Union which organized the best teacher award exercise, and Johannes won one of these awards.
Johannes was one of the few colleagues who wrote in both English and Chinese, even though Chinese writings did not count much for the purpose of promotion. I was another of such colleagues, and we put together our Chinese writings in a book, entitled “人權與法治: 香港過渡期的挑戰” (Human Rights and the Rule of Law: The Challenges of Hong Kong’s Transition), which was published in the late 1980s.
And in those days, as you saw from the video just now showing a photo taken on my wedding day in which Johannes appeared, he was invited to do the Bible reading for my church wedding.
Now, I come to the 1990s. In 1991, the government introduced the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance, partly to alleviate the crisis of confidence in Hong Kong after the June Fourth event in Beijing. As far as I know, Johannes played an active role in advising the government in putting forward this Bill of Rights. I’m sure he drew heavily on his knowledge of international and European human rights law which he studied in the UK. I think he was particularly instrumental in getting the Letters Patent — Hong Kong’s constitutional document — amended, so as to introduce a provision mirroring or reproducing Article 39 of the Basic Law in providing that Hong Kong laws should not restrict rights in a way contrary to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Maybe Johannes can tell us an insider’s story of how this constitutional amendment came about. This was an extremely important constitutional development, probably the most significant constitutional development after the enactment of the Basic Law in 1990. Because without this amendment, Hong Kong courts would not have the power of judicial review and striking down laws which are considered inconsistent with the human rights guarantees in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
In the early 1990s, we had several colleagues — including Yash Ghai and Andrew Byrnes — joining the Faculty. They collaborated with Johannes in a number of very important initiatives, such as establishing the Centre for Comparative and Public Law, publishing the Hong Kong Public Law Reports and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Bulletin, and launching the LLM in Human Rights. And of course, Johannes also produced a lot of scholarship on Hong Kong’s human rights jurisprudence based on the case law generated after the enactment of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights.
As a practising barrister, Johannes also had many opportunities to participate in shaping the development of Hong Kong’s human rights law. As counsel appearing before the courts in many important human rights cases, both before and after the handover. Johannes witnessed and contributed to the development of public law in Hong Kong.
Since the 1990s, Johannes had also participated actively in community service. He served on many government consultative bodies, as well as in the Bar Council. He served in various positions for many years. I remember particularly that, before the handover, he was a member of the CPU, the Central Policy Unit. After the handover, he sat for many years in the Law Reform Commission subcommittee on privacy protection, which produced many important reports.
The Faculty and the Department of Law were very fortunate to have Johannes serving as Head of the Department of Law from 1999 to 2002, and subsequently as Dean from 2002 to 2014. So I suppose adding together the years of Johannes’ headship and deanship, which amounted to 15 years. Johannes, probably more than any other colleague in the Faculty, shaped the development of the Faculty since 1999. There were many important initiatives introduced during Johannes’ headship and deanship: Hualing has just mentioned Johannes’ devotion to designing this new Law Faculty building and ensuring that it would be, as he often said, a site and venue symbolizing the rule of law in Hong Kong. I have already mentioned the Clinical Legal Education Programme whose establishment Johannes has been proud of. The development of various research centres also occurred during Johannes’ deanship. We witnessed the rapid development of centres like the Asian Institute of International Financial Law (AIIFL), the Law and Technology Centre, the Centre for Chinese Law, and the Centre for Medical Ethics and Law (CMEL). Most of these centers were established during Johannes’ deanship.
Other academic developments, for example, the transition from the three-year LLB to the four-year LLB, happened during Johannes’ headship. As far as I remember, he played the most important role in drawing up the curriculum of the four-year LLB. And during his deanship, he also introduced the double degree programme in Law and Literature (BA & LLB) and the LLM in Arbitration and Dispute Resolution (LLM(Arb&DR)).
And of course, in terms of recruitment, Johannes played a very important role since his headship. As Head of the Department of Law and as Dean of the Faculty, he was involved in recruitment for 15 years. So I suppose many of our colleagues were recruited during Johannes’ headship or deanship.
Johannes became, as you know, the first Honorary Senior Counsel in Hong Kong’s legal history. Also, as I already said, he served for many years as a member of the Bar Council, and drafted many important documents on behalf of the Bar. Johannes co-edited with Professor C.L. Lim a textbook on Hong Kong’s constitutional law, which students have been using for many years. But since most of you are not studying constitutional law, you may not need to read that textbook, so I would like to recommend some popular books written by Johannes, including this book, published in 2019, which won the Hong Kong Book Award of 2020, called “正道‧大學──寫在風雨之後”. This is a collection of many of Johannes’ recent articles published in his Ming Pao column. I forgot to mention just now that Johannes is also a newspaper columnist, and regularly writes articles for the media. There is also this other book, which I’ve already mentioned, “眾裏尋她：公義在香港”, which is published in both English and Chinese, which contains many stories of how Johannes participated in various court cases. This is a very interesting book, as interesting as Patrick Yu’s book on his experience of practice at the Bar in the 1960s-70s.
Johannes was promoted to the position of Chair Professor in Public Law in 2019, and he also won a recent fellowship of the UGC/RGC as a distinguished scholar in the humanities and social sciences.
To conclude, I think Johannes’ career as an academic has been exemplary. He is an inspiration to all of us, aspiring academics; a model for us to follow. He has excelled in all relevant domains of academia, including teaching, research and scholarship, knowledge exchange, adminsitration, service to the university and service to the community. In addition, he has also engaged actively in legal practice, and as a legal practitioner contributed to the actual development of case law in Hong Kong. His popular writings and his frequent commentaries in the media also contributed to Hong Kong people’s understanding of the rule of law and current legal developments in Hong Kong.
Finally, I will conclude by quoting a saying which Johannes used to quote. I don’t know whether he has already planned to quote it today, but if so, I apologize for preempting this quote. I have heard him quote this more than once. So, I would like to share this with you. This is a Chinese saying written by 顧憲成 in the Ming Dynasty, and this was written as a couplet (對聯) at the 東林書院, one of the Confucian colleges. The Chinese words are as follows: 「風聲雨聲讀書聲，聲聲入耳； 家事國事天下事，事事關心。」
And I attempt to translate it into English as follows: “The sound of wind, the sound of rain, the sound of reading aloud, I hear all these sounds; Happenings in the family, happenings in the nation, happenings in the world, I care about all these happenings.” I think this is the message of a socially concerned scholar, and I think that is the message which Johannes wanted to promote when he used this quote time and again. Thank you.