Saturday, April 23, 2011
Geoffrey Ma Tao-li (traditional Chinese: 馬道立; born 11 January 1956) is currently the Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal of Hong Kong, who ranks second only to the Chief Executive of Hong Kong in the Hong Kong order of precedence.
Before his judicial appointment, he was a barrister-at-law who was qualified to practise in England and Wales, Hong Kong, Australia and Singapore.
Legislator and Senior Counsel Audrey Eu and Ronny Tong believed Ma will continue to defend the independence of the Hong Kong judiciary, but described him as sometimes a little too "conservative." Tong cited an appeal from September 2009 when Ma and fellow judges criticized the government for not disclosing information but eventually ruled in favor of an Immigration Department decision to deny entry to Falun Gong practitioners on "security grounds." Also, in December 2008, he was part of a Court of Appeal panel that overturned a lower court ruling that acquitted the operators of Citizens' Radio of unlicensed broadcasting.
On the other hand, the Hong Kong Bar Association said in a statement Ma commands "deep respect" and is "eminently qualified". Similarly, Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor Director Law Yuk-kai said he was pleased to see Ma's rich experience in public law. "He is strong in public law. He has the competence to protect constitutional rights," Law said. "Of course we were disappointed about some cases, but I don't think he is going out of the way to side with the government. I hope he understands that his role is very important. Hong Kong doesn't have democracy. We expect there is at least one branch of government that serves as the last protector of our rights and interests.