Chief Justice, members of the judiciary, fellow members of the Bar and legal professions, ladies and gentlemen:
It is indeed my pleasure to welcome you all to join us in our celebration of the 50th anniversary of our Chambers.
Although we are now celebrating our 50th anniversary, in fact, Oswald Cheung, our founder commenced practising in the Hong Kong Bar in 1952, initially from Sam Gittins’ chambers at Marina House (on the site of what is now part of the Landmark) but very soon thereafter he set up his own Chambers at the then Alexandra House at Chater Road, Central, Hong Kong. In 1965, when the current Prince’s Building was completed, he moved to Prince’s Building and set up a set of Chambers with other members of the Bar and he was appointed Queen’s Counsel in the same year, being the first Chinese to be appointed Queen’s Counsel in Hong Kong. Our Chambers is one of the oldest sets of barristers’ chambers in Hong Kong. He was Chairman of the Bar in 1965, Member of the Legislative Council in 1970-1981 and Member of the Executive Council in 1974-1986. He was knighted in 1987 when he retired from politics and in the same year, he was made a bencher of the Lincoln’s Inn.
The first address of Oswald Cheung’s Chambers was at 703, Prince’s Building. There were four founding members: Oswald Cheung QC, Gerald de Basto, Charles Ching and Ronald Arculli. Ronald Arculli later left the Bar for the solicitors’ branch of the profession and went on to hold numerous distinguished public posts. Gerald de Basto after taking silk, became a District Court Judge and then a Judge of the High Court. Charles Ching had a long and extremely successful career at the Bar as a leading silk, who was appointed directly to the bench of the Court of Appeal and then became one of the founding members of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal in 1997.
Early members of Chambers also included Anthony Dicks, Patrick Fung, Andrew Li and Kemal Bokhary, who in his Reflections remarks on the founding members of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal having at one time of their career in the bar, practised from the north-west (sic) corner of the 7th floor of Prince’s Building. He has probably got this direction wrong, it should be the North East corner rather than the North West corner. Three out of the five had spent their early days in these chambers. The lively days of those early years are captured in that remarkable volume. Kemal Bokhary will in due course address this party and he would no doubt be in a position to tell you more about the life in those early days.
In 1986, Oswald Cheung’s Chambers moved to its present address on 10th Floor, New Henry House with only six members, but soon expanded. Annexes were set up on other floors of the building. Robert Tang QC, succeeded Sir Oswald as head of Chambers in 2003 and I succeeded him after he was elevated to the bench.
Throughout his life, Oswald Cheung had a passion to assist the young. This was why he took the lead to establish the chambers system in Hong Kong. Our Chambers is modelled on the traditional English barristers’ chambers, with one important exception - we do not and have never had any chambers’ clerk. To-day, the policy of this set of Chambers remains one of helping new comers to the Bar whenever possible, while providing an environment of congenial discussion and mutual assistance.
It is the continuation of the implementation of this policy that we have been expanding rather rapidly in the last 30 years well in line with the growth of the Bar. In 1986 when we moved to New Henry House, we only had 6 members, and now we have 47 full members of whom 6 are senior counsel.
In our role as barristers in the administration of justice, we are committed to uphold the rule of law. As a matter of co-incidence rather than planning, the practice of this set of Chambers is predominantly civil, though every area of practice is covered. Another feature of our chambers is the tradition of public service. Our members have been participating actively in the affairs of the Bar. In the history of the Hong Kong Bar Association, no fewer than eight Bar Chairmen have practised as members of these Chambers. Other than the activities of the Bar our members have served the public as Members of the Legislative Council, and in various community services through a wide range of public bodies throughout the years. We pledge that we will continue to do so in the future.