Kemal Bokhary
Non-Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal
Assumed office
Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal
In office
Preceded byNew office
Succeeded byRobert Tang
Justice of Appeal of the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Hong Kong
In office
Judge of the High Court of Justice of the Supreme Court of Hong Kong
In office
Appointed bySir David Wilson
Justice of the Peace
In office
Personal details
Born (1947-10-25) 25 October 1947 (age 76)
Hong Kong
SpouseVerina Bokhary
RelationsAmina Mariam Bokhary (niece)
Children3 daughters
Kemal Bokhary

Syed Kemal Shah Bokhary GBM JP (Urdu: سید كمال شاه بخاري, Chinese: 包致金; Cantonese Yale: Bāau Jigām; born 25 October 1947) is a judge in Hong Kong. He was one of three Permanent Judges of Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal from its inception in 1997 until he reached the mandatory retirement age of 65 in October 2012; afterwards, he remained on the bench as a non-permanent judge.[2]

Early life and family

Bokhary's father is Daoud Bokhary, a native of the North-West Frontier Province in the British India (now Pakistan) who came to Hong Kong with the British Indian Army after the Japanese occupation.[3] His mother's family had been in Hong Kong since the 19th century.[4] Bokhary himself was born in Kowloon, Hong Kong in 1947.[4] He received his early education in the King George V School, Hong Kong and his legal education in London.[5] Bokhary is married to former High Court judge Verina Saeeda Bokhary, with whom he has three daughters.[6][7]


Bokhary was called to the English Bar in 1970 and to the Hong Kong Bar the following year.[5] He went on to establish a successful legal practice in Hong Kong and was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1983.[6] The following year, he also became a Justice of the Peace.[citation needed] In 1989, he was appointed a Judge of the High Court. He came to wide public attention in early 1993 for presiding over an inquest into the New Year's Eve stampede at Lan Kwai Fong, in which 21 people were killed. He was promoted to the Court of Appeal later that year.[6][7] In 1997, upon the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to the People's Republic of China, Bokhary was appointed a Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal of Hong Kong. He was known for his sense of humour and his talkativeness in court.[5] In 2001, Bokhary was elected a bencher of London's Middle Temple.[7]

Out of the permanent judges of the Court of Final Appeal, Bokhary holds the record for the number of dissenting opinions he has written. He is also described as the "most hard-working" judge; during his thirteen years of tenure, he heard 95% (299) of the 313 cases which came before the Court of Final Appeal, a higher proportion than his colleagues.[8] His frequent dissents were thought by some to be "intellectually superior" to opinions written by other members of the bench, and he was nicknamed the "conscience of the court" due to his tendency to rule in accordance with his sense of justice rather than established principles;[9] he has also been described as the "Lord Denning of Hong Kong" by Martin Lee SC.[10]

Bokhary retired from his position as Permanent Judge on 24 October 2012 upon reaching the retirement age of 65. In remarks upon the occasion, he warned of "a storm of unprecedented ferocity" which threatened the judicial autonomy of Hong Kong. Commenting on the decision not to extend his retirement age, Bokhary suggested that, "If you were asking if I believe that the reason why [my retirement age was not] extended is because of my liberal judgements, then I would tell you that I do believe that."[11] Nevertheless, reflecting on his time on the bench, Bokhary stated that, although opinions between the justices differed on occasion, he never encountered anything less than a highly-cooperative attitude, both at the hearing and judgment-writing stages.[12] He also insisted that Hong Kong judges would always independently apply the law, Beijing's power to interpret the Basic Law notwithstanding: “The very fact that there’s an interpretation [from Beijing] shows you that the court is independent. Because if the courts are not independent, then they could just be told quietly behind the scenes what to do, and they would do it. But everybody knows that’s not how it works in Hong Kong.”[13]

In March 2012, Robert Tang was named as his successor.[14] Bokhary has continued to sit as a Non-Permanent Judge, hearing occasional cases.[15][16]

Since retirement as a Permanent Judge, Bokhary has published Recollections, a memoir,[17] and the Crocky series, a series of cartoons,[18] reflecting upon his career in the law.[1]




  1. ^ Chiu, Austin (6 December 2012). "Liberal judge Bokhary stands by his dissenting views". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 26 June 2018. 'My nationality is British. That does not make me any less a Hong Kong person,' the Hong Kong-born judge said. ... A British national, Bokhary disagreed with the suggestion that judges of the top court should be Chinese citizens or Hong Kong residents.
  2. ^ List of Judges and Judicial Officers, Hong Kong Judiciary, 1 January 2010, archived from the original on 23 January 2010, retrieved 27 January 2010
  3. ^ "Good life fit for a hero", The Standard, 26 May 2005, archived from the original on 26 May 2005, retrieved 9 January 2008
  4. ^ a b "專訪包致金(一) – 有線寬頻 i-CABLE".
  5. ^ a b c "The judges: from Chief Justice through rising star to Commonwealth veteran", South China Morning Post, 21 July 2001, archived from the original on 28 July 2011, retrieved 28 January 2010
  6. ^ a b c "Kemal Bokhary", South China Morning Post, 13 June 1997, archived from the original on 23 May 2006, retrieved 9 January 2008
  7. ^ a b c "包致金女兒曾涉高買", Oriental Daily News, 28 January 2010, archived from the original on 1 February 2010, retrieved 30 January 2010
  8. ^ "參與95%案件包致金最勤力", Ming Pao, 6 March 2010, retrieved 18 March 2010
  9. ^ Gittings, Daniel (2010), "Hong Kong's courts are learning to live with China", Hong Kong Journal, vol. 5, no. 3, retrieved 12 July 2010
  10. ^ "Kemal Bokhary Court's liberal voice revered for dissent". 9 April 2012.
  11. ^ "I was ousted for being too liberal - Bokhary". 5 November 2012.
  12. ^ "Face to Face with Justice Kemal Bokhary: A Life in Law | Hong Kong Lawyer".
  13. ^ "'City's judges independent despite Beijing's power to interpret Basic Law'". South China Morning Post. 31 January 2019.
  14. ^ Luk, Eddie (29 March 2012), "I wasn't asked to stay on, says liberal judge", The Standard, archived from the original on 22 May 2012, retrieved 25 October 2012
  15. ^ Chan, Candy (25 October 2012), "Parting shots", The Standard, archived from the original on 14 July 2014, retrieved 25 October 2012
  16. ^ Chiu, Austin (25 October 2012), "Retiring Court of Final Appeal judge Kemal Bokhary warns of legal turmoil", South China Morning Post, retrieved 25 October 2012
  17. ^ "A life in court: lawyers, robbers and other reptiles". South China Morning Post. 24 April 2013. Retrieved 21 March 2023.
  18. ^ "Crocky Series by Kemal Bokhary". Retrieved 21 March 2023.
  19. ^ a b Secretary for Justice v Yau Yuk Lung Zigo and Lee Kam Chuen, FACC 12/2006
  20. ^ "Human Rights: Source, Contents and Enforcement - Run Run Shaw Library - City University of Hong Kong". Retrieved 21 March 2023.
Legal offices New office Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal 1997–2012 With: Henry Litton, Charles Ching (1997–2000)Patrick Chan, Robert Ribeiro (2000–2012) Succeeded byRobert Tang Order of precedence Previous:Frank StockNon-Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal Hong Kong order of precedenceNon-Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal Succeeded byPatrick ChanNon-Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal