Geoffrey Ma Tao-li
Ma in 2017
2nd Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal
In office
1 September 2010 – 11 January 2021
Appointed byDonald Tsang
Preceded byAndrew Li
Succeeded byAndrew Cheung
Designated National Security Law Judge
In office
Appointed byCarrie Lam
3rd Chief Judge of the High Court
In office
14 July 2003 – 31 August 2010
Appointed byTung Chee Hwa
Preceded byArthur Leong
Succeeded byAndrew Cheung
Justice of Appeal of the Court of Appeal of the High Court
In office
Judge of the Court of First Instance of the High Court
In office
Personal details
Born (1956-01-11) 11 January 1956 (age 68)
British Hong Kong
SpouseMaria Yuen
Alma materUniversity of Birmingham
Geoffrey Ma
Traditional Chinese馬道立
Simplified Chinese马道立

Geoffrey Ma Tao-li GBM KC SC (Chinese: ; born 11 January 1956) is a retired Hong Kong judge who served as the 2nd Chief Justice of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appealthe court of last resort (or supreme court) in Hong Kong. Between 2001 and 2010, he held various positions in the High Court of Hong Kong, including Chief Judge, Justice of Appeal, and Judge of the Court of First Instance. Before his judicial career, he was a barrister-at-law in private practice at Temple Chambers, and was qualified to practice in England and Wales, Hong Kong, Australia and Singapore.

Early life and education

Ma was born in Hong Kong in 1956, the son of an electrical engineer. His great-grandfather was the imam of the Muslim community in Shanghai before the Second Sino-Japanese War. His parents moved to Hong Kong from Tianjin in the late 1940s. In the 1960s, after Geoffrey was born, his family moved to Manchester in the United Kingdom, where he went to Altrincham Grammar School.[1]

Ma studied Law at the University of Birmingham. He graduated with an LLB in 1977.[2]

Legal career

In 1978, Ma was called to the Bar by Gray's Inn in London and commenced his practice as a barrister in England and Wales; he was then called to Bar in Hong Kong, State of Victoria, Australia and Singapore in 1980, 1983 and 1990 respectively. He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1993.[3] During his time as a barrister, Ma was instructed for many high-profile cases. He represented the Director of Immigration in the right of abode cases. He was Head of Chambers of Temple Chambers in Hong Kong prior to his judicial appointment.[2]

He was appointed by the Hong Kong Judiciary as Recorder of the Court of First Instance of the High Court in December 2000. In December 2001, Ma became a Judge of the Court of First Instance of the High Court.[3] In 2002, Ma was elevated to the position of Justice of Appeal of the Court of Appeal of the High Court.[4] In July 2003, he was appointed as Chief Judge of the High Court.

Ma was also a member of the Working Party on Civil Justice Reform, which came into effect in April 2009 and is aimed at lowering legal costs and improving assess to justice. Addressing almost 200 legal professionals at a forum in April 2010, Ma criticised judges for being too lenient in civil proceedings with time-wasting parties[5] and encouraged judges to fully use their new case management power under the Civil Justice Reform to ensure expediency. He also warned lawyers against devising new tactics to make civil proceedings unnecessarily lengthy and inefficient.[6]

On 8 April 2010, it was announced that the Chief Executive Donald Tsang accepted the recommendation of the Judicial Officers Recommendation Commission to appoint Ma as the successor to the current Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal Andrew Li. Ma was succeeded by Andrew Cheung as Chief Judge of the High Court.[7] On 9 June 2010, Ma's appointment was approved by the Legislative Council by a majority vote.[8]

Ma had a number of public appointments, which include serving as an associate member of the London Maritime Arbitrators Association, an honorary lecturer of the Department of Professional Legal Education of the University of Hong Kong, a member of the Criminal and Law Enforcement Injuries Compensation Board, a member of the High Court Civil Court Users Committee, a member of the Hong Kong Futures Exchange Disciplinary Appeal Tribunal, chairman of the Appeal Tribunal Panel (Buildings), deputy chairman of the SFC Appeals Panel, and deputy chairman of the SFC Takeovers Appeals Committee.[3] Ma is a patron of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law; he is also a patron of the International Advocacy Training Council.

He was awarded the Grand Bauhinia Medal in June 2012 by the Hong Kong Government, and the title of Officier de l’Ordre de la Legion d’Honneur was conferred on him by the French Government in 2015. He was elected an honorary bencher of Gray's Inn in 2004, making him the third person in Hong Kong conferred with such honour.[9] He was made an honorary fellow of Harris Manchester College, Oxford in 2012; he also serves as a member of the advisory board of the Commercial Law Centre at the college.

On 15 November 2016, Ma was elected as an Honorary Bencher of the Middle Temple.[10]

In October 2019, Ma announced his intention to step down from his position as Chief Justice in January 2021, when he turns 65.[11]

Since retiring, Ma has returned to private practise as an arbitrator and mediator in Temple Chambers, Hong Kong (where he was Head of Chambers before joining the judiciary),[12] and Brick Court Chambers, London.[13] He has also been appointed as Honorary Professor of both the University of Hong Kong's and the Chinese University of Hong Kong's respective law faculties.[14][15]


Legislator and Senior Counsel Audrey Eu and Ronny Tong believed[when?] Ma will continue to defend the independence of the Hong Kong judiciary, but described him as sometimes a little too "conservative."[16][needs update] Tong cited[when?] an appeal from September 2009 when Ma and fellow judges criticised the government for not disclosing information but eventually ruled in favour of an Immigration Department decision to deny entry to Falun Gong practitioners on "security grounds."[17] 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.

Nevertheless, the Hong Kong Bar Association stressed that 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."[18]

After Ma announced his retirement as Chief Justice, Carrie Lam thanked him for his staunch commitment and relentless efforts in safeguarding the rule of law and promoting the international status of the Judiciary, particularly amongst common law jurisdictions. She also commended his sterling contribution in enhancing the efficiency, effectiveness and transparency of judicial administration.[19]


Ma is married to Maria Yuen, who is a Justice of Appeal of the Court of Appeal of the High Court. They have one daughter.[3] To avoid any possible conflict of interest, Ma would not hear appeals from cases in which Yuen has sat. Nor would he deal with any administrative matter concerning her.[17]


  1. ^ "Geoffrey MA Tao Li - Citation - Citations - HKU Honorary Graduates".
  2. ^ a b Mr Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-Li Birmingham Law School
  3. ^ a b c d "Appointment of High Court Judge". Hong Kong Government. 28 November 2000. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
  4. ^ "Judicial Appointment". Hong Kong Government. 14 November 2002. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
  5. ^ "Next Chief Justice criticises judges". RTHK. 15 April 2010. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
  6. ^ Colleen Lee (16 April 2010). "New chief warns time wasters". The Standard. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
  7. ^ "Appointment of the Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal". Hong Kong Government. 8 April 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2010.
  8. ^ Phila Siu and Colleen Lee (10 June 2010). "Ma confirmed as next chief justice". The Standard. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 10 June 2010.
  9. ^ "Chief Judge elected Gray's Inn Honorary Bencher". Hong Kong Government. 21 December 2004. Archived from the original on 25 July 2007. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
  10. ^ "Masters of the Bench: The Hon Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-Li GBM". Middle Temple. Retrieved 12 May 2022.
  11. ^ "Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma to step down in 2021". RTHK. 31 October 2019. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  12. ^ "Geoffrey Ma - Temple Chambers".
  13. ^ "The Hon Geoffrey Ma | Brick Court Chambers".
  14. ^ "The Hon Chief Justice Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Appointed as Honorary Professor of the HKU Law | Faculty of Law, The University of Hong Kong".
  15. ^ "CUHK Appoints Former Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma as Honorary Professor of Law | CUHK Communications and Public Relations Office". CUHK Appoints Former Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma as Honorary Professor of Law | CUHK Communications and Public Relations Office.
  16. ^ "Geoffrey Ma named as new Chief Justice". RTHK. 8 April 2010. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
  17. ^ a b Patsy Moy (9 April 2010). "New chief justice gives oath on lawyer wife". The Standard. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
  18. ^ Joyce Woo (9 April 2010). "HK top judge nominee praised as good for rights". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 13 July 2012. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
  19. ^ "Andrew Cheung named Chief Justice". Hong Kong's Information Services Department (in Chinese (Hong Kong)). Retrieved 18 April 2020.
Legal offices Preceded byArthur Leong Chief Judge of the High Court 2003–2010 Succeeded byAndrew Cheung New creation Designated National Security Law Judge 2020–2021 Succeeded byRetirement Preceded byAndrew Li Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal 2010–2021 Succeeded byAndrew Cheung