Hong Kong’s justice minister Teresa Cheng will continue teaching law at Beijing’s Tsinghua University this spring, the government has announced.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s office said in a Thursday night press release that the secretary of justice would continue teaching her students for a master’s programme in international arbitration and dispute settlement for around three weekends, without pay.
“Ms Cheng has already resigned as director of the course and adjunct professor, but in order to minimise any effects to the students’ studies, she hopes to complete the aforementioned teaching work,” it read.
Arbitration work unrelated to government
While urging tolerance for Cheng in a scandal over illegal structures in her house, Lam told the Legislative Council on Thursday that the secretary for justice will also be allowed to finish six nearly-completed arbitration cases that she started prior to taking office.
In its press release, the Chief Executive’s Office cited Cheng as saying that the cases are not related to any matters involving the Hong Kong government or the secretary for justice.
“Without violating case confidentiality, Ms Cheng said that the six cases are not related to the Hong Kong government, her role as secretary for justice, or any Hong Kong public organisations.”
“The entire process [of appointing Cheng] was completed at a fast pace,” read the press release. “Ms Cheng had to prepare for taking office in a very short time, including… resigning from many posts in local and international professional groups, refusing participation in many local and international dispute and arbitration cases.”
“In fact, the hearings for these six cases has been completed, and Mrs Cheng’s work as an arbitrator has basically been completed. The only remaining work relates to the decision and announcement of arbitration results by the arbitrating team. At the current pace, it is estimated that the work will be completed within a few months.”
“If Mrs Cheng quits her work as an arbitrator at this stage, she will violate her responsibilities as an arbitrator and cause extreme inconvenience or loses to both parties. It would even be counterproductive for Hong Kong’s policy direction to become a regional legal services and arbitration centre.”
Cheng has made a written promise that the external work does not constitute a conflict of interest, said the office.
Like ‘squeezing toothpaste’
Democratic Party legislator Andrew Wan compared the gradual emergence of several sagas surrounding the secretary of justice to “squeezing toothpaste” out of a container.
“This matter is quite unusual in that they never announced it until after the illegal structures scandal grew deeper,” he told reporters on Friday.
“It’s as if they fear the flames will be fanned, and in these circumstances the chief executive is forced to [announce the arbitration work].”
The press release added that on January 9 – three days after taking office – Cheng had quit her post as director and surrendered a 75 per cent shareholding in a private company that provided her with secretarial services as a senior barrister. Company registry records show that the firm is named Super Alliance Co., Ltd.
“There are still some remaining miscellaneous matters need to be dealt with by the aforementioned private company. [It] will shut down after completing the work at hand.”
Tsinghua University has not returned HKFP’s calls for comment.