Yang Ti-liang

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The Honourable Dato Seri Paduka Sir
Ti-liang Yang
Life Member of the Court of HKU
Assumed office
18 December 2001
Serving with Sir Yuet-Keung Kan, Dr. Rayson Huang and Dr. Victor Fung
Chief Justice of Hong Kong
In office
Preceded by Sir Denys Roberts
Succeeded by Sir Noel Power (acting)
Unofficial Member of the
Executive Council
In office
Chief Executive Tung Chee-Hwa
Convenor Sir Sze-Yuen Chung
Leung Chun-ying
Personal details
Born (1929-06-30) 30 June 1929 (age 88)
Shanghai, Republic of China
Spouse(s) Tam Oi-lin (aka Eileen Barbara Tam; died 24 June 2006); two sons
Alma mater Soochow University (Suzhou) Law School
LLB (University College, London)
Honorary Degree Hon LLD (CUHK)
Hon DLitt (HKU)
Hon LLD (PolyU)

The Hon. Dato Seri Paduka Sir Ti-liang Yang,[1] GBM, (Chinese: 楊鐵樑爵士; born 30 June 1929) is a retired senior Hong Kong judge. He was the Chief Justice of Hong Kong from 1988–1996, the only ethnic Chinese person to hold this office during British colonial rule.

He was a candidate in the 1996 Hong Kong Chief Executive election, where he lost to his opponent Tung Chee-Hwa. After the transfer of the sovereignty of Hong Kong, he was appointed a non-official member of the Executive Council by Tung and retired in 2002. In retirement, he mainly focuses on writing and teaching English. In September 2003, he became the host of a RTHK radio programme, Yang Ti-liang Mail Box (楊鐵樑留言信箱), teaching English grammar.

Early years[edit]

Yang was born in Shanghai on 30 June 1929 to an influential family which had roots in what was Nanguan in Xiangshan County of Guangnan East Circuit (now Zhongshan, Guangdong Province) since the early twelfth century, although they had resided in Shanghai since the early nineteenth century. His pre-12th century ancestors were officials in Guangling, now Guangling District, Yangzhou, whose roots go back to the Sui dynasty.[citation needed]

He is the youngest of four siblings. Their great-grandfather, Yang Guixuan, and grandfather, Yang Meinan, were trading partners with Swire in Shanghai. His father, Yang Shaonan (楊少南), was a Swire manager who later co-founded a shipping company with Swire. His mother, Chun Sinyu (陳蒨如), was educated at St. Mary's Middle School in Shanghai. Her father and grandfather, Chen Xuejie (Chun Shut-kai) and Chen Keliang (Chun Ko-liang), respectively, were trading partners with Swire.[citation needed]

Yang Ti-Liang attended St. John's Middle School (same foundation as St. John's University) in his early years and read law in the Comparative Law School of China in Soochow University (Suzhou) from 1946–49. Due to the Chinese Civil War, he moved very briefly to Hong Kong before graduating. Then he moved to England to read law at University College London, where he graduated with an LLB with honours in 1953. In 1954, he was called to the bar with honours at Gray's Inn. After studying in England, Yang returned to Hong Kong in 1955. Initially, he worked in his father-in-law's barristers' chambers. During that time, there was no vacancy in the government legal service, but Yang was interviewed by the then Chief Justice Sir Michael Hogan.[citation needed]

Judicial career[edit]

In June 1956, Yang was offered a post as magistrate, which he accepted, and, in 1963, he was promoted to senior magistrate. Shortly after the promotion, he received a scholarship and became a Rockefeller Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London from 1963 to 1964.[citation needed]

Yang was acting District Judge from 1964 to 1968. During that period, he was chairman of the Kowloon Disturbances Claims Assessment Board and following the 1967 Leftist Riots, he also presided over the Compensation Board. In 1968, he was appointed District Judge of the Victoria District Court and was made a member of the Chinese Language Committee and president of the Legal Sub-Committee in 1970. Yang was, for a brief period in 1971, acting Puisne Judge.

In 1972, he was appointed Commissioner of Inquiry into the Rainstorm Disasters. On 17 February 1975, he presided over the watershed corruption trial of Peter Fitzroy Godber, a former Kowloon Deputy District Commissioner of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force. Yang sentenced him to four years' imprisonment after a six-day trial. That same year, Yang was promoted to Judge of the High Court of Justice of the Supreme Court of Hong Kong.

In 1976, he chaired the Commission of Inquiry into the Leung Wing-sang case in which a station sergeant, Lau Cheong-wah, allegedly induced Leung with HK$10,000 to confess to wounding another person. In 1980, Yang was chairman of the Commission of Inquiry into the controversial apparent suicide of Inspector John MacLennan, a case thought to be linked to his homosexuality. Yang was also a member of the Law Reform Commission and chairman of the Sub-Committee on Law Relating to Homosexuality in 1980.[citation needed]

Yang was appointed a Justice of Appeal in 1981 and, six year later, Vice-President. In March 1988, Yang was appointed Chief Justice of Hong Kong (the then chief judge of the Court of Appeal) following recommendation of the Governor Sir David Wilson. This was the first time an ethnic Chinese had held this office. Prior to the appointment, he also received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II in the New Year Honours List.[2] According to customary practice, Chief Justices of Hong Kong would also become Chief Justice of Brunei Darussalam. However, Yang's predecessor, Sir Denys Tudor Emil Roberts continued to serve as Chief Justice of Brunei Darussalam after his retirement. Sir TL was instead appointed as president of the Court of Appeal of Brunei on 24 May 1988. He resigned this post on 16 May 1993 and was succeeded by Justice Kutlu Tekin Fuad, a retired Hong Kong Court of Appeal judge.[citation needed]

As Chief Justice of Hong Kong, he initiated a series of reforms to the local Common Law system to face the challenges after the transfer of the sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997. In 1995, he introduced Cantonese as a second available language of trial in the lower courts.[citation needed]

Chief Executive election[edit]

In 1996, tendered his resignation to then governor Chris Patten in order to clear the way for his candidacy in the first ever Chief Executive election. In addition, he renounced his British citizenship and wrote a letter to Queen Elizabeth II to give up his knighthood.[3] Before the election, he organised a series of campaigns, including visiting public housing estates, and travelled on the Mass Transit Railway subway system for the first time in his life. On 11 December 1996, the small-circle Election Committee selected Tung Chee Hwa, a shipping magnate, over Yang to be Chief Executive. The vote was a humiliating 320 to 42.

Yang was appointed a Non-Official Member of the Executive Council by Tung soon after the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. During his tenure in the Council, he was chairman of the Exchange Fund Investment Ltd from 1998 to 2002 and was responsible to the management of the Tracker Fund of Hong Kong. From 1999 to 2004, he was also chairman of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Complaints Committee.

Public service[edit]

From 1981 to 1984, Yang was chairman of the University and Polytechnic Grants Committee. From 1985 to 2001, he was chairman of the University of Hong Kong Council. He was also Pro-Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong from 1994 to 2001. In 2000, during his Pro-Chancellorship, he was designated by the university to investigate the Public Opinion Programme Disputes.

In 1988, he was elected an Honorary Bencher of Gray's Inn. He served as President of the Bentham Club at University College London in 1991.

From 1998 to 2012, he was chairman of the Hong Kong Red Cross; in June 2012, he assumed the honorary position of President.

After retiring from the Executive Council in 2002, Yang spent much of his time teaching English grammar and etiquette. In September 2003, he hosted a Radio Television Hong Kong radio programme, Yang Ti-liang Mail Box (楊鐵樑留言信箱), teaching English grammar and answering questions on his website.

He has been honorary professor of Chinese at the University of Hong Kong since 1998. In 2005, he was appointed honorary professor and chairman of the Executive Committee of the School of Law by the Chinese University of Hong Kong.[4] In 2006, he was made honorary professor of Social Sciences at the Open University of Hong Kong.


Yang married Eileen Barbara Tam at Caxton Hall in London in 1954. Eileen was the daughter of the Hon. William Ngartse Thomas Tam, OBE, JP, a lawyer, magistrate and one time Legislative Councillor in Hong Kong before World War II. The couple had two sons. Lady Yang died on 24 June 2006, aged 74.

Yang's niece[citation needed] is the Grammy Award-winning pianist Gloria Cheng, who won the 2009 Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without orchestra) award.[5]

Translated works[edit]

Yang has translated famous Chinese classics into English, including:


He was knighted in 1988.[6] He was appointed a Justice of Peace from 1 July 1998 to 2012[7][8]. He was awarded the Grand Bauhinia Medal by the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in 1999 to acknowledge his contribution to justice and higher education in Hong Kong.

Honorary degrees[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Yang Ti-liang never took an English name for himself, believing it to be unnecessary. He once stated that Sun Yat-sen likewise had no English name and he was "as famous as Sun". (得失之間 楊鐵樑, 壹週刊時事專訪, 7 August 2003)
  2. ^ "No. 51171". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1987. p. 2. 
  3. ^ Although he could have returned his insignia and ceased to use the title by doing so, officially he was still recorded as being a knight. Honours are only removed via forfeiture procedures. Therefore, from the law's perspective, he never actually renounced his knighthood.
  4. ^ Yang and Dr Anthony Neoh SC at the helm of the CUHK Law School, CUHK, 30 March 2005
  5. ^ Huizenga, Tom (9 February 2009). "Modern Music Sweep For Classical Grammys". NPR Music. Retrieved 17 June 2017. 
  6. ^ "No. 51558". The London Gazette. 13 December 1988. p. 13986. 
  7. ^ "Persons appointed under Section 3(1)(b) of the Justices of the Peace Ordinance (Cap. 510)". 7 June 2012. Archived from the original on 9 June 2012. Retrieved 9 July 2017. 
  8. ^ "Persons appointed under Section 3(1)(b) of the Justices of the Peace Ordinance (Cap. 510)". 24 December 2012. Archived from the original on 1 January 2013. Retrieved 9 July 2017. 


English materials[edit]

  • Former Chief Justice warns not to let language deteriorate, Pensioners' Corner, Civil Service Newsletter Editorial Board, retrieved on 1 September
  • The Hon. Sir Ti Liang Yang, GBM, JP Curriculum Vitae, Hong Kong Red Cross, 2005
  • Information Paper for the Joint Meeting of the Panel on Security and Panel on Health Services to be held on 29 April 2003, Hong Kong Legislative Council, retrieved on 1 September 2007
  • HISTORY, Supreme Court of Brunei Darussalam, retrieved on 1 September 2007
  • American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 116, No. 3 (Nov 2010) pp. 1046–1052 by Barbara Celarent

Chinese materials[edit]

  • 得失之間 楊鐵樑, 壹週刊時事專訪, 7 August 2003
  • 楊鐵樑簡介, 楊鐵樑留言信箱, RTHK, retrieved on 1 September 2007
  • Taigu Jituan Zaijiu Zhongguo Shanghai Renmin Chuban She 1991

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Sir Albert Maria Rodrigues
Chairman of the Council of the University of Hong Kong
Succeeded by
Dr Victor Fung
Legal offices
Preceded by
Denys Roberts
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Hong Kong
Succeeded by
Noel Power
Order of precedence
Preceded by
Anson Chan
Recipient of the Grand Bauhinia Medal
Hong Kong order of precedence
Recipient of the Grand Bauhinia Medal
Succeeded by
William Purves
Recipient of the Grand Bauhinia Medal