Mr Justice Woo Kwok-hing speaks to the media during a district council by-election in his role as chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission in 2006. He is now retired and plans to run in the 2017 chief executive election. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A retired Hong Kong High Court judge is the first to announce he’ll run in the city’s Chief Executive election next year.

Woo Kwok-hing, born in 1946, retired from the judiciary as the vice-president of the Court of Appeal of the High Court in 2011.

He flagged his plans to contest the next ballot to become Hong Kong’s next leader when his election office sent out an invitation to media organizations on Wednesday afternoon for a press conference on Thursday in Wan Chai.

Woo was appointed a judge of the Court of First Instance of the High Court in 1992 and eight years later he became a justice in the Court of Appeal.

He was called to the English Bar in 1969, the Hong Kong Bar in 1970 and appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1987.

The election for the Chief Executive is set for March 26, 2017.

Respect across the aisle

“Woo’s participation is good,” pro-Beijing New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee told RTHK. “Woo’s participation represents the will of Hong Kong people to have a fair and competitive election.”

Ip, the former secretary for security, who reportedly has interest in running for the top job, said she had not yet made up her mind.

Pro-democracy Civic Party legislator Dennis Kwok Wing-hang said he was not clear about Woo’s political stance given his background in the judiciary.

Yet, the lawmaker for the legal sector believed anyone would be a better choice than the incumbent chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, and Woo is well-respected in legal circles.

Woo is not the first person to express interest in the job. Both Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah and former president of the Legislative Council, also a Beijing loyalist, Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, said they would be willing to run.

A 1,200-strong election committee, comprising a select group of mostly Beijing loyalists chosen from various sectors and industries, will choose the next chief executive. An election for members of this committee will be held on Dec. 11 this year.

A 1,200-member committee chose Leung in the 2012 election. The election committee has been under criticism for its narrow electorate, which heavily favors business interests.

Previous chief executives

Hong Kong’s first chief executive was Tung Chee-hwa following the handover of the special administrative region in 1997 to China.

Tung, the eldest son of Chinese shipping magnate Tung Chao-yung who founded Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL), served two terms and on Mar. 10 2005, he tendered his resignation due to “health problems”.

His successor was Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, a former civil servant who served from 2005 to 2012.

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