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Patrick YU Shuk Siu




Patrick YU Shuk Siu

Doctor of Laws
honoris causa

Mr Pro-Chancellor,

Sadly, our first honorary graduand Patrick Yu Shuk Siu is not well and is unable to attend today's ceremony. I had the privilege of visiting Patrick, his wife and daughter Dominica, earlier this week and I am pleased to report that Patrick, who is now ninety-one years of age, has lost none of his passion for life or acuity of mind and he apologises for being unable to attend today. I am sure that we all wish him a speedy recovery.

Patrick Yu is one of Hong Kong's most celebrated, respected and fearless advocates.

Patrick was born in 1922 into an intellectual family with ancestry from Guangdong. He was educated privately at home until the age of 9 when he attended Wah Yan College. In 1938, at the age of sixteen, he was admitted as a Government Scholar into this University to read for an Arts degree.

His studies were, however, interrupted by the Second World War and, although Patrick did not complete his final year of study, he was awarded a wartime degree. Having escaped to China Patrick then served with British Naval Intelligence and was later commissioned as an office in the Intelligence Corps of the Army of the Republic of China. In 1945, when the war ended, Patrick was awarded a Victory Scholarship by the Government of Hong Kong to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Merton College, Oxford (the College at which his father had studied). After graduation he remained in England to study for the Bar and was admitted as a barrister of Lincoln's Inn. Having served his pupilage in England, Patrick moved to Malaya where he worked briefly in his uncle's firm. He then returned to Hong Kong and in 1951 was the first Chinese to be appointed Crown Counsel. After one year in the post, however, he resigned in protest at the unequal terms of service given to him as a local appointee (although both the Attorney General and Chief Justice strongly advocated his being granted expatriate terms). He moved on and entered private practice, sharing a room in the chambers of his old friend Sir Oswald Cheung, with whom he had previously studied in the Faculty of Arts. Soon afterwards he set up his own office in Ice House Street in which many future notable barristers, who had graduated from the law school of this University, later served their pupilages.

Patrick says that this period in Government, albeit brief, was far from wasted as it was there that he gained a rare insight into police methods and procedure, which proved to be of great assistance in his subsequent private practice at the Bar.

He recounts that, whilst working in Government, he was one day interrupted by a colleague who said: "Patrick, I don't understand why you are working so hard. Try to remember that in Government service non-activity is no bar to promotion... while making mistakes is. Therefore the less you do the smaller the chance of mistakes being made and the better your chance of promotion". Patrick vehemently disagreed, taking up many more cases than his colleagues in the Legal Department and winning most of them! Indeed, this is one of the reasons he has given for his notable success in defending clients - that he prepared all his cases meticulously unlike many of his opponents.

As the first and only Chinese Crown Counsel at that time, his court appearances were widely reported in the popular press, which meant that, when he did embark upon private practice, his reputation was firmly established and there was no shortage of clients. Indeed, Patrick tells me that, as one of the first Chinese barristers, he was especially passionate about facilitating better representation in criminal trials for Chinese defendants from poorer backgrounds who, not surprisingly, often failed to understand the niceties of the western criminal process. His most laudable aim was to secure justice for them and many benefited greatly from his services.

His fearsome intellectual ability, especially in the arena of cross-examination, made him a leading light at the criminal bar. His outstanding forensic skills were aided by a photographic memory so that, when conducting a lengthy trial, he could recall exactly what each witness had said without needing to refer to any notes.

Patrick was invited to accept appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court of Hong Kong by three consecutive Chief Justices but again declined on the grounds of the discriminatory terms of employment.

Mr Pro-Chancellor, it was during this time that Patrick was appointed to the University and Polytechnic Grants Committee where he played a leading role in the establishment of the Law School at this University. Indeed, given the fact that there was opposition from some weighty quarters, it was probably only as a result of his persuasive arguments that the Law School was established at that time. He was indeed endorsing his strong belief that Hong Kong required its own law school to enable good students from less financially privileged backgrounds to study law. The fruits of his endeavour are clear to see, since so many local students, who could not have afforded to study overseas, now grace the topmost ranks of our legal profession.

Indeed Patrick's very high moral principles are legendary. His firm stand by resigning from the legal department of Government and declining appointment to the Bench on the grounds of discrimination (which he said was insulting) was, in the context of the day, very brave. Patrick also declined to become a Queen's Counsel (the normal progression for eminent lawyers) in the belief that recognition should come from what one has achieved, without the need for applying for recognition of such achievements.

In 1983, after thirty years of eminently successful practice, Patrick retired. He became an autobiographer and has published two well-received memoirs "A Seventh Child and the Law" and "Tales from No 9 Ice House Street". In particular I like a photograph of a very well-dressed Patrick standing on a punt on the river which is captioned "Patrick on a punt before he fell into the River Isis"! I assume from the fact of his later eminent career that he could swim!

Mr Pro-Chancellor, I would like to end my citation by mentioning a personal memory of Patrick. Patrick often came to our Law Faculty to speak on formal occasions. The last time I heard him speak to a group of students at this University, I recall clearly his standing bolt upright, no lectern, no notes and delivering a prepared speech entirely from memory with no hesitation and no mistakes. He must have been in his eighties at the time and this was a most impressive performance. His integrity, moral courage and dignity are unsurpassed. He is indeed legendary.

Mr Pro-Chancellor, it is my honour and privilege to present to you Patrick Yu Shuk Siu for the award of Doctor of Laws honoris causa, in absentia.

Citation written and delivered by Professor Michael Wilkinson, the Public Orator of the University of Hong Kong. 

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