Professor Johannes MM Chan, SC (Hon) 陳文敏
PROFESSOR JOHANNES M M CHAN is formerly Chair of Public Law of the Faculty of Law. He is also the former Dean (2002-2014) of the Faculty. He retired from the University in July 2021 and was appointed an Adjunct Professor after his retirement. Specialised in constitutional, administrative and human rights law, he has published widely in these fields.
He is currently a Visiting Professor of University College London (2018-2023), and formerly the BOK Visiting International Professor of Penn Law School, University of Pennsylvania, Herbert Smith Freehills Visiting Professor of Cambridge University, and a visiting fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University.
He is also the first (and so far the only) Honorary Senior Counsel in Hong Kong. As a barrister, he has appeared as leading counsel in many major public law cases.
In 2019, he was awarded by the Hong Kong Research Grants Council the RGC Prestigious Fellowship in Humanities and Social Sciences.
He specializes in human rights, constitutional law and administrative law. He is the author/editor of over 20 books/monographs, and over 200 journal articles/book chapters/conference papers. His latest books include
Law of the Hong Kong Constitution (with C L Lim, 3rd ed, 2021)
Judicial Review (with Hectar Pun SC et al), Halsbury’s Law of Hong Kong, vo 34(1), 2nd ed, 2021)
Jury (with Randy Shek et al), Halsbury’s Law of Hong Kong, vol 34(1), 2nd ed, 2021)
Righteousness – The Rule of Law (正道-法治) (2020, in Chinese);
Righteousness – the Academia (正道-大學)((2019) (in Chinese; received the 13th Hong Kong Book Prize);
Paths of Justice (2018) (English version in 2018; Chinese updated version 公義在香港 appeared in 2021);
Constitutional Law and Human Rights (Halsbury’s Law of Hong Kong, Special Edition, vol 16, with Mr Justice Bohkary and others, 2015);
General Principles of Hong Kong Law (香港法概論) (with Albert Chen & others, 3rd ed, 2015)(in Chinese);
Some of his recent articles/book chapters include:
Johannes Chan, “Responsive Judicial Review without Democracy: The Hong Kong Experience” (2022) 52 Hong Kong Law Journal (forthcoming)
Johannes Chan, “National Security Law in Hong Kong: One Year On”, (2022) 30 Academia Sinica Law Journal 1-67
Johannes Chan, “From Eliminating Discrimination on the Ground of Sexual Orientation to Same-Sex Marriage: The Hong Kong Experience” (2021) 27 Australian Human Rights Journal (forthcoming)
Johannes Chan, “National Security and Judicial Independence: A Clash of Fundamental Values”, in Fu Hualing and Michael Hor (eds), National Security in Hong Kong (Hong Kong University Press, 2022), (forthcoming)
Johannes Chan, “Judicial Responses to the National Security Law: HKSAR v Lai Chee Ying” (2021) 51(1) Hong Kong Law Journal 1-13
Johannes Chan, “Reconciliation of the NPCSC Interpretation of the Basic Law with the Common Law in Hong Kong” (2020) 50(2) Hong Kong Law Journal 657-684
Johannes Chan, “A Strained Interpretation of Article 22 of the Basic Law” (2020) 50(1) Hong Kong Law Journal 7-18
Johannes Chan, “The Power of the Chief Executive to Grant Amnesty” (2019) 48(3) Hong Kong Law Journal 865-882
Johannes Chan, “Ten Days that Shocked the World: The Rendition Proposal in Hong Kong” (2019) 49(2) Hong Kong Law Journal 431-445
Johannes Chan, “Maintaining Institutional Strength: The Court, the Act of State, and the Rule of Law”, in Fiona de Londras and Cora Chan (eds), China’s National Security and Hong Kong’s Rule of Law (Cambridge: Hart Publishing, 2019), Chapter 14
Johannes Chan, “A Shrinking Space: A Dynamic Relationship between the Judiciary in a Liberal Society of Hong Kong and a Socialist-Leninist Sovereign State” (2019) 70 Current Legal Problems 85-122
Johannes Chan, “Proportionality after Hysan: Fair Balance, Manifestly without Reasonable Foundation, and Wednesbury Unreasonableness” (2019) 49 Hong Kong Law Journal 265-294
Johannes Chan, “A Storm of Unprecedented Ferocity: Shrinking Space for Political Rights, Public Demonstrations and Judicial Independence in Hong Kong” (2018) 16(2) International Journal of Comparative Constitutional Law 373-388
Johannes Chan and Vivian Wong, “The Politics of the Ombudsman: The Hong Kong Experience”, in Marc Hertogh and Richard Kirkham (eds), Research Handbook on the Ombudsman (Edward Edgar, 2018), pp 91-112
Johannes Chan, “Application of Article 6 of the ECHR to administrative decisions: The Experience of a Common Law Jurisdiction”, in Rolf Weber, Markus Notter and Andreas Heinemann (eds), Europäische Idee und Integration – mittendrin und nicht dabei (European Ideas and Integration – in the middle and not involved?) Liber Amicorum in Honour of Professor Andreas Kellerhals (Basel: Schulthess, 2018), pp 37-49
Johannes Chan, “Vindicatory Damages for Violation of Constitutional Rights: A Comparative Approach”, in Mark Elliott, Jason Varuhas and Shona Wilson Stark (eds), The Unity of Public Law? (Hart Publishing, 2018), pp 327-350
Johannes Chan, “Behind the Text of the Basic Law: Some Constitutional Fundamentals” in Rosalind Dixon and Adrienne Stone (eds), The Invisible Constitution in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge University Press, 2018), pp 193-229
Johannes Chan and Douglas Kerr, “Academic Freedom, Political Interference and Public Accountability”(2016) 7 Journal of Academic Freedom 1-21
Johannes Chan, “Hong Kong Constitutional Journey 1997-2011”, in Albert Chen et al (eds), Comparative Asian Constitution (Cambridge University Press, 2014), pp 169-193
Johannes Chan, “Administrative Law”, in S Young and Y Ghai (eds), Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal: Justice and Development of the Law in China’s Hong Kong (Cambridge University Press, 2014), pp 417-446
Johannes Chan, “The Hong Kong Umbrella Movement”, (2014) 103(6) The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs 571-580 (Oxford: Routledge, 2014)
Johannes Chan, “Constitutional Protection of the Right to be Presumed Innocent and the Right against self-incrimination: The Hong Kong Experience’, (2013) Singapore Academy of Law Journal (Special Issue, Dec 2013) 679-713
He has appeared as counsel in many leading Bill of Rights/human rights and constitutional law cases. Internationally, he has worked on specific issues with many non-governmental organisations (such as Amnesty International, Lawyers Committee, the International Committee of Red Cross, Article 19). He has also appeared in official international forum and acted as a trial observer in the Asian region.
Professor Chan has served on many government/public and professional bodies, including the Bar Council, the Consumer Council, the Broadcasting Authority, the Press Council, the Administrative Appeals Board, the Municipal Services Appeals Board, Law Reform Sub-Committee on Privacy, Council of the Hong Kong Red Cross, and the Central Policy Unit of the Hong Kong Government. He served on the Consumer Council for 12 years and was the chairman of its Consumer Legal Action Fund for 6 years till 2010, during which time he oversaw, among other things, the test case involving the Lehman Brothers saga.
He is also the author of a weekly column in Ming Pao, a leading Chinese newspaper in Hong Kong for over 12 years since 2002 and, since 2008, served on the Civic Commission on Democratic Reform established by Mrs Anson Chan, the former Chief Secretary of Administration of the HKSAR. He joined Mrs Anson Chan again in 2013 to form a group known as 2020, the sole objective of which is to contribute to the political reform in Hong Kong.
In 1995, he was elected as one of the Ten Young Outstanding Persons in Hong Kong. In 1997, he received the Badge of Honour from the British Red Cross Society for his service. In 1999, he received the Human Rights Press Award. In 2003, he was appointed the first Honorary Senior Counsel. In 2011, he completed the Management and Leadership in Higher Education Program at Harvard University.
Book Recommendation (by Professor Johannes M M Chan)
Jonathan D Spence, The Gate of Heavenly Peace (USA: Penguin Books, 1982)
Contemporary history has never been a strong discipline in China. This is not because we do not have good historians. Rather, it is something deeply seated in our culture. The long history of China is full of suppression and torture of those who are prepared to testify to the truth of contemporaneity. “The pen of Spring and Autumn” is very often confined to the distant past. True is it that one can easily lose his objectivity in writing about contemporary history. Yet for a country that has gone through so much in the last 100 years, is it not sad that the accounts of most textbooks on contemporary history stop after the Second World War?
This is of course not to say that there is no book on events in China after 1949. Indeed, many exist, particularly about the Cultural Revolution. Yet most of them are either written with a particular political stance and a less than objective analysis, or infused with anger or frustration or political dogmatism. In recent years, our Government attempts to promote patriotism by asking our students to learn more about the history of contemporary China, but how can understanding even begin to start when there is a dearth of an objective account of the history in the past 100 years?
A leading professor at Yale University, Jonanthan Spence recounts the history of China between 1895 and 1980. Unlike many western historians or Chinese experts, his account is passionate but objective, distant and yet with a distinct understanding of Chinese culture. Instead of focusing on political figures and historical events, he traced the history of China in the last 100 years through the thoughts, words and life of a small number of Chinese intellects, particularly Kang Youwei, a nationalistic scholar brought up in traditional education at the end of the Qing Dynasty who believed in the reform of the declining empire, Lu Xun, who was angry with the Qing Dynasty and disappointed with the Nationalists, and Ding Ling, a sad but typical story of intellect succumbing to political reality. The lives of these three characters span the entire period of contemporary Chinese history. Around these three key figures are the stories of many well known intellects? the young Tan Sitong, the scholars Liang Qichao and Shen Congwen, the idealist Qiu Jin, the poets Wen Yiduo and Xu Zhimo, the Marxist Qu Qiubai, the satirical novelist Lao She, the educationist Cai Yuanpei, the protester Wei Jingsheng. Each lived their colourful life with courage and startling wisdom. Each of them has their own ideals, and pursued them in their own way. Each of their lives had its own shape and force, and each of them had to make difficult choices in life. Some decided to fight, others decided to compromise. Some retired to destiny, whilst others were determined to believe in a better tomorrow when hope seemed luxurious. Some chose to be a spectator, others decided to leave their allotted place in history and marched to the centre of the stage, sometimes not really out of their own choosing, but they rose to the challenges of their time even to the point of giving up their own lives. Their lives provide a powerful account of the turbulent era of modern China.
Interestingly, many major events in China in the last 100 years took place before the Gate of Heavenly Peace ? a remarkable place of paradoxes that is inseparable from the modern history of China. I was first attracted to this book by its Preface, and you can’t stop reading it thereafter:
The Gate of Heavenly Peace guards the southern approach to the former imperial palace complex in Beijing. Until China’s last dynasty fell in 1912, it was through this gate that the main axis of the Emperor’s power was believed to run, as he sat in his throne hall, facing south, the force of his presence radiating out across the courtyards and ornamental rivers of the palace compound, passing through the gate, and so to the great reaches of countryside beyond. During the teens and twenties of this century the gate ceased to have either a clear defensive or a clear symbolic function, though it bore quiet witness to the new paradoxes that were beginning to dominate Chinese life: north of the gate the corrupt court of the abdicated Emperor lived on in twilight grandeur behind their walls, struggling to survive amidst turbulent warlord regimes; in front of the gate, using it as a marker and meeting place, political activists, students, and workers gathered in vocal demonstrations to protest the ineffectualness of their nominally republican regimes in the face of foreign imperialist aggression, only to be dispersed with clubs or with gunfire. (p 17)
Jeffrey Robertson, Justice Game (Vintage, 1998)
As a leading Queen’s Counsel specialising in human rights and media law, Jeffrey described his own personal experience in some of the most controversial cases in the common law system. These cases dealt with a wide range of subjects, from obscenity to official secrets to death penalty to privacy to homosexuality. Instead of emphasizing his own role, he described these cases to show how the common law system works, or fails to work. It is compassionately written, and Jeffrey demonstrated a strong conviction of the common law system – a conviction to sustain justice and the rule of law. The book is infused with anger and frustration when the system does not work or when the Government tried to abuse the system, and at the same time with passion and belief in justice (which sometimes arrives 20 years in delay)! This is a most enlightening book suitable for anyone who cares about justice. Indeed, it was this book that inspired me to write the column on the Road to Justice in Ming Pao in 2000.
Professor Chan is the leading authority in constitutional law, administrative law and human rights in Hong Kong. Notwithstanding that he has been a full time executive Dean for 12 years from 2002-2014, he is the author/editor of over 20 books/monographs and over 250 articles/book chapters/conference papers and presentations. His works have been cited on numerous occasions by the Hong Kong courts and in academic works. In a recent judgment, in the context of Professor Chan’s pioneer work on social and economic rights dating back to the early 1990s, Mr Justice Bokhary of the Court of Final Appeal said, “Professor Chan was in the company of Hong Kong’s leading constitutional lawyer, Professor Yash Ghai, when they said two decades ago (in The Hong Kong Bill of Rights: a Comparative Approach (Johannes Chan and Yash Ghai eds) (1993) (Butterworths Asia) at p.5) that “(i)n countries with an established tradition of constitutionalism, the rule of law is acceptable because economic and social rights are woven into the fabric of public law.” And their writings are in the company of, for example, Robert Alexander, The Voice of the People (1997) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) where it is said at p.196 that “human rights…prevent the weakest going to the wall” and John P Humphrey, Human Rights and the United Nations (1984) (Transnational Publishers) where it is said at p.2 that “[h]uman rights without social and economic rights have little meaning for most people”. (Kong Yunming v Director of Social Welfare (2013) 16 HKCFAR 960 at 1004, para 167). In another recent case of Koon Ping Leung v Director of Lands  2 HKC 329 at 339, Lam J (as he then was; now Vice-President of the Court of Appeal) described Professor Chan’s argument that not all rights of an indigenous inhabitant fall within the protected rights under the Basic Law as “persuasive”, to which the Applicant in that case, confronted with Professor Chan’s analysis, could not seriously dispute (further endorsed by the Court of First Instance in Secretary for Justice v Liu Wing Kwong 2 HKLRD 155 at 189.)
In recent years, almost all of his publications are by invitation, and he has published with distinguished publishers such as Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, University of Pennsylvania Press, Hong Kong University Press, and his works appear in top-ranked journals such as International and Comparative Law Quarterly, Singapore Academy of Law Journal, and Human Rights Law Journal. His latest work, Law of the Hong Kong Constitution, is a seminal work on the Basic Law of Hong Kong, which is soon recognized as the leading work on this area as soon as it is published. Not only is he the editor and contributor to 7 chapters of the book, Professor Chan conceived the entire structure and content of the book from the very beginning and carried it through by inviting other contributors. As soon as he stepped down from the Deanship, he was invited to re-write the two volumes of the prestigious Halsbury’s Laws of Hong Kong on Constitutional Law and Human Rights.
Professor Chan is also a regular speaker in international conferences and fora. He is invited to give a keynote speech in the prestigious 4th East Asian Law and Society Conference in Tokyo in August 2015. He is the founding editor of Hong Kong Public Law Reports, the first set of private law reports on public law in Hong Kong. His work was so successful that the Law Reports were acquired by a commercial publisher, and they are now in volume 18. Professor Chan is one of the few academics in Hong Kong who is the editor of all main law reports in Hong Kong (Hong Kong Law Reports and Digest, Hong Kong Cases, Hong Kong Public Law Reports).
His international reputation is further witnessed by his visiting professorship. He is Herbert Smith Freehill Visiting Professor of University of Cambridge, Visiting Professor of University College London, and BOK Visiting International Professor at University of Pennsylvania, just to name a few. He was on the international team of reviewers in reviewing the Law School of Taiwan National University, and the Chief External Examiner of the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya. He is also a regular assessor for GRF grants in Hong Kong and various grants applications, both in Hong Kong and Asia, including being an assessor of the prestigious Cheung Kong Scholars in Mainland China.
Another major contribution of Professor Chan is his publications in Chinese. Until 1989, English was the only official language for laws in Hong Kong. With the imminent change of sovereignty under which Hong Kong is to develop a bilingual legal system, there was a dearth of Chinese legal materials in Hong Kong. He is one of the pioneers in publishing high quality legal works in Chinese when Chinese legal literature was practically non-existent, and his writings, together with his contemporaries like Professor Albert Chen, play a key and significant role in promoting and developing a bilingual legal system in Hong Kong.
Another of Professor Chan’s contribution is that, as a barrister, he is able to extend the frontiers of the law through his advocacy work, thus combining the best of the two worlds of academia and practitioners. He is the leading counsel in many cases of seminal importance (eg, the right to legal representation in disciplinary matters; the right to social welfare, costs in public interest litigation, legal professional privileges etc). Very few academics have that privilege of being able to turn what they think ought to be the law to become what the law is. As a result, he is able to give a practical dimension in both his academic writings and teaching. In recognition of his immense contribution to the legal system through his research and writing and his advocacy in courts, he was conferred the distinction of being the first (and still the only one) Honourary Senior Counsel in Hong Kong.
A final remark on his research contribution is that it has to be taken in the context of his being one of the most successful Deans of the Faculty of Law in recent years. He has led the Faculty through various difficult periods, and transformed the Faculty from a local teaching school to one of the best international law schools in the world during his 12 years of Deanship. During this time, he has actively promoted and nurtured young talents, created opportunities for colleagues, and brought colleagues together in major research projects. The Law of the Hong Kong Constitution is one such example where he is able to bring in all the expertise in the Faculty in public law to contribute to a seminal volume. While he is unable to supervise many postgraduate students, he has expanded significantly the RPG programme (from a few PhD students in the Faculty in 2002 to about 100 PhD students now in the Faculty). Despite his heavy administrative duties, he still supervised many LLM papers (as he still teaches a postgraduate seminar in Human Rights). He has also changed the culture of the Faculty in terms of research grants applications, as traditionally most legal research does not require extensive research grants support and thus resulting in a relatively low number of grants applications from the Faculty). This has changed quite dramatically in recent years with a steady increase in the number of applications and successful cases. Professor Chan himself was a holder of a number of GRF/RGC grants which he had successfully completed, although in recent years he has no shortage of private funding support for his research work.
He is also generous in sharing his expertise with the community at large, now recognized as knowledge exchange. He has a long record of participating extensively in community work and public services, and is a regular and influential commentator on public affairs, thus contributing his expertise to the well being of the community. Since 2003, he has been writing a weekly column in Ming Pao, a leading Chinese newspaper, on law and politics, and his views are closely followed by the Government, policymakers and the media.
The following pages set out in details Professor Chan’s list of publications, his editorship, conference papers and presentation, reports and other publications, and his research grants.
Click here to download his publications.