Who’s Woo? A profile of the first 2017 CE election candidate

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Woo Kwok-hing, the third judge ever to run in a CE election, has kept a rather low-profile in front of the general public. He is however no ordinary candidate.

Retired judge Woo Kwok-hing (胡國興) has become the first to announce his candidacy in next year’s chief executive election. With the focus being on John Tsang Chun-wah (曾俊華) and CY Leung initially, Woo’s move surprised the general public as well as those in the  political arena.

Woo studied law in the United Kingdom and became a barrister in Hong Kong in 1970 with Ronald Arculli as his mentor. He was named Senior Counsel in 1987 and joined the judiciary five years later as a judge of Court of First Instance of the High Court. He then served the Court of Appeal of the High Court as a judge in 2000 and as vice-president from 2004 until last week. He was appointed chairman of a commission of inquiry investigating allegations against officials of the-then Education and Manpower Bureau for interfering with The Hong Kong Institute of Education (circa February 2007). He recused himself on account of his close relationship with Secretary for Education and Manpower Arthur Li Kwok-cheung (李國章) and Mr Li’s predecessor Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun (羅范椒芬).

Although having no governance experience, Woo was head of the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) from 1993 to 2006 and the city’s first communications and surveillance watchdog between 2006 and 2012. In 2002, Woo once described the EAC as a “toothless tiger” that cannot forbid Beijing to publicly back a particular chief executive candidate. In 2009, Woo engaged in an exchange of words with the Independent Commission Against Corruption over allegations that the anti-graft watchdog tapped four legally protected communications.

Many of Woo’s family members are practicing lawyers, including his younger brother Woo Kwok-yin (胡國賢), younger son Alan Woo (胡雅倫), and brother-in-law Justice Robert Tang Kwok-ching (鄧國楨) is a Permanent Judge on the Court of Final Appeal. His elder son, meanwhile, joined the business world and is a director of an immigration consultants company.

Woo, aged 70, quit smoking four years ago, although he claimed during his election press conference that it is still very tempting to him.