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Dato Seri Paduka Sir Ti-Liang Yang, GBM, SPMB, JP (Traditional Chinese:楊鐵樑爵士, born June 30, 1929), also known as Sir TL, is a retired senior judge in Hong Kongmarker. He was Chief Justice of Hong Kong from 1988 to 1996 and was the only ethnic Chinese to hold this office during the British colonial rule. In 1996, Sir TL resigned and became a candidate in Hong Kong Chief Executive election, 1996, where he lost to his opponent Tung Chee Hwa. After the transfer of the sovereignty of Hong Kong, he was appointed as non-official member of the Executive Council by Tung and retired in 2002.

In retirement, Sir TL now mainly focuses on writing and teaching English. In September 2003, he became the host of a RTHK radio programme called Yang Ti-liang Mail Box (楊鐵樑留言信箱), teaching English grammar to the audiences.


Early years

Yang was born in Shanghai on June 30, 1929 to an influential family which had roots in what was Nanguan in Xiangshan of Guangnan East Circuit (now Zhongshanmarker, Guangdongmarker Province) since the early twelfth century, although they had resided in Shanghai since the early nineteenth century. His pre-twelfth century ancestors were officials in Guangling city, now Guangling District of Yangzhoumarker with roots going back to the Sui Dynasty. Subsequent generations were scholar-officials and scholar-gentry including a number who became members of the Hanlin Academy, one of whom was the first in the family to settle in the south in circa 1130. He was Yang Yuangui, an inspector of the Salt commission and was possibly created Viscount. His father, Yang Tongcai, was a senior official in Guangling. Only one or two, possibly three, were soldiers. Yang Yichen a.k.a. Yang Qianshou was a senior imperial officer during the Taiping Rebellion serving under Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang. He was raised to the rank of Baron. There was a Provincial/General Commander-in-Chief in the thirteenth century, and another died at the hands of the rebel Chen Qiyu in Guizhoumarker in the seventeenth century, for which subsequent generations were 'graced' by the imperial court. One was appointed Prefect of Guilinmarker.

He has a sister and two brothers and he is the youngest amongst them. Yang's great-grandfather, Yang Guixuan, and grandfather, Yang Meinan, were trading partners with Swire in Shanghai and his father, Yang Shaonan (楊少南), was a manager of Swire who later established a shipping company with Swire as his co-partner. Yang's mother was Chun Sinyu (陳蒨如), a modern woman who was educated at St Mary Middle School in Shanghai. Her father and grandfather, Chen Xuejie (Chun Shut-kai) and Chen Keliang (Chun Ko-liang), were also trading partners with Swire.

Born in a family of comfortable means, Yang attended the well-known St John 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 from 1946 to 1949. Due to the disturbance of the Chinese Civil War, he moved very briefly to Hong Kongmarker after graduation. And then he read law at UCL in Britainmarker. He graduated from there in 1953 achieving honours in LLB. Later in 1954, he was again called to the bar with honours at Gray's Innmarker.

After his study in Englandmarker, Yang returned to Hong Kongmarker in 1955. Initially, he worked in his father-in-law's barrister chambers. During that time, there was no vacancy in the government legal service, but Yang was able to manage a job interview held by the then Chief Justice Sir Michael Hogan.

Judicial career

In June 1956, after a long wait, the government eventually offered him a post in the magistracy as magistrate. Yang soon took the post and was promoted as senior magistrate in 1963. Shortly after the promotion, he received a scholarship and became a Rockefeller Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studiesmarker, University of London from 1963 to 1964.

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 Courtmarker and was made a member of the Chinese Language Committee and president of the Legal Sub-Committee in 1970. Later in 1971, Yang was the presiding judge of the "Poisoned horses case" and was for a brief period acting Puisne Judge in the same year. In 1972, he was again Commissioner of Inquiry into the Rainstorm Disasters.

On February 17, 1975, Yang presided over the trial of Peter Fitzroy Godber, a former Kowloonmarker's Deputy District Commissioner of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force who was charged with corruption. The trial lasted for 6 days only and Godber was sentenced 4 years in prison. In the same year, Yang was promoted as judge of the High Courtmarker. Later in 1976, he chaired the Commission of Inquiry into the Leung Wing-sang Case, a case in which a Station Sergeant, Lau Cheong-wah, allegedly induced Leung to confess to wounding another person by paying him $10,000. Again in 1980, Yang was chairman of the Commission of Inquiry into Inspector MacLennan's Case, investigating the dubious suicide of the homosexual Police Inspector, John MacLennan. Besides, he was also member of the Law Reform Commission and chairman of the Sub-Committee on Law Relating to Homosexuality in 1980.

Yang was appointed Justice of Appealmarker in 1981. In 1987, he was appointed Vice-President of the Court of Appeal. In March 1988, Yang was appointed Chief Justice of Hong Kong under the recommendation by then Governor Sir David Wilson. This was the first time an ethnic Chinese held this office. Prior to the appointment, he also received a customary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II in the New Year Honours List. According to customary practice, past Chief Justices of Hong Kong would become Chief Justice of Brunei Darussalammarker. 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 Court of Appeal of Brunei on May 24, 1988. He resigned this post on May 16, 1993 and was succeeded by Justice Kutlu Tekin Fuad, a retired Hong Kong Court of Appeal judge.

As Chief Justice of Hong Kong, Sir TL enthusiastically initiated a series of reforms on the local Common Law system in order to face the challenges after the transfer of the sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997. In 1995, he broke the 152-year-old judicial tradition of Hong Kong by introducing Chinese language into local courts.

CE election

In 1996, Sir TL decided to contest the first ever Chief Executive election and submitted his resignation to then governor Chris Patten. In addition, he renounced his British citizenship and wrote a letter to Queen Elizabeth II to give up his knighthood. Before the election, he organized a series of campaigns, including visiting public housing estates, and travelled on the MTR for the first time in his life. The election for Chief Executive was held on December 11, 1996. Yang was defeated by Tung Chee Hwa, a shipping magnate who received 320 votes out of 400 votes from the Election Committee. On the contrary, Yang came second by gaining 42 votes.

Despite losing in the CE election, Yang was appointed a Non-Official Member of the Executive Council by Tung soon after the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Regionmarker. 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 ICAC Complaints Committee.

Yang was awarded a Grand Bauhinia Medal by the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in 1999 in order to acknowledge his contribution to legal justice and higher education in Hong Kong. In 2002, he retired from the Executive Council. Soon after he resumed the usage of his knighthood.

Public service

Early from 1981 to 1984, Sir TL was chairman of the University and Polytechnic Grants Committee. From 1985 to 2001, he became chairman of the University of Hong Kongmarker Council. Besides, he was also Pro-Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong from 1994 to 2001. During his Pro-Chancellorship, he was designated by the University to investigate the Public Opinion Programme Disputes in 2000. Since 1998, he has been the chairman of the Hong Kong Red Cross.

Sir TL was also President of the Bentham Club, UCL in the year 1991. In 1988, he was elected an Honorary Bencher of Gray's Innmarker.

Contributions to education

After retiring from Executive Council, Sir TL spent much of his time teaching English grammar and etiquette. In September, 2003, he even became the host of a RTHK radio programme called Yang Ti-liang Mail Box (楊鐵樑留言信箱), teaching English grammar to the audiences and answering questions on his website.

He has been honorary professor of Chinese at the University of Hong Kongmarker 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 Kongmarker. He lends his name to the School of Law society for all undergraduates and postgraduates. And in 2006 he was made honorary professor of Social Sciences at the Open Universitymarker of Hong Kong.

colspan="2" style="background: #CFCFCF; text-align: center" Experiences
  • Magistrate
  • Senior Magistrate
  • Research Fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation
  • Acting District Judge
  • Chairman of the Kowloon Disturbances Claims Assessment Board
  • Chairman of the Compensation Board
  • District Judge
  • Member of the Chinese Language Committee and President of the Legal Sub-Committee
  • Acting Puisne Judge
  • Commissioner of Inquiry into the Rainstorm Disasters
  • Judge of the High Court
  • Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry into the Leung Wing-sang Case
  • Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry into Inspector MacLennan's Case
  • Member of the Law Reform Commission and Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Law Relating to Homosexuality
  • Justice of the Court of Appeal
  • Chairman of the University and Polytechnic Grants Committee
  • Chairman of the University of Hong Kong Council
  • Vice-presidents of the Court of Appeal
  • Chief Justice
  • President of Court of Appeal of Brunei
  • Pro-Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong
  • Unofficial member of the Executive Council
  • Chairman of the Exchange Fund Investment Ltd
  • Chairman of the ICAC Complaints Committee
  • Chairman of the Executive Committee of the School of Law of the Chinese University of Hong Kong


Yang married Eileen Barbara Tam in Londonmarker in 1954. Eileen was the daughter of the Hon. William Thomas Tam O.B.E., J.P., a renowned lawyer, magistrate and one time Legislative Councillor in Hong Kong before World War II. She was educated at Diocesan Girls' Schoolmarker in Hong Kong, St. Mary's Limpsfield near Oxtedmarker, and University College Hospitalmarker.

Yang has 2 sons. His younger son married the youngest daughter of Patrick Yu. Yang and Barbara were well known for their conjugal love. Sadly, Barbara died on June 24, 2006 at the age of 74.

Translated works

As a renowned translator, Yang has translated numbers of famous Chinese classics into English, they include:

  • General Yue Fei, 1995 (《說岳全傳》)
  • The Peach Blossom Fan, 1998 (《桃花扇》)
  • Officialdom Unmasked, 2001 (《官場現形記》)


Honorary degrees


See also


  1. Sir TL does not have an English name for himself. He believes it is unnecessary for him. He once said that Sun Yat-sen didn't have an English name also, so he was "as famous as Sun". (得失之間 楊鐵樑, 壹週刊時事專訪, August 7, 2003)
  2. Although Sir TL could 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.
  3. Sir T L Yang and Dr Anthony Neoh SC at the helm of the CUHK Law School, CUHK, March 30, 2005


English materials

Chinese materials

  • 得失之間 楊鐵樑, 壹週刊時事專訪, August 7, 2003
  • 楊鐵樑簡介, 楊鐵樑留言信箱, RTHK, retrieved on September 1, 2007

External links

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