After beginning his career in the Pacific Islands, Yaxley occupied a number of senior roles with the administration of British Hong Kong, which culminated in his appointment as Hong Kong Commissioner in London
Yaxley studied at Durham University as a member of Hatfield College. During his studies he attended the 6th World Festival of Youth and Students in Moscow and reported his experiences in the university newspaper Palatinate. He was also active in the Durham University Boat Club. After graduating with a degree in Geography he completed two years of national service in the Royal Army Educational Corps, being appointed 2nd Lieutenant (on probation) 25 August 1958. He joined the Overseas Civil Service in 1961.
Yaxley first served in Vanuatu (formerly The New Hebrides) and the Solomon Islands (formerly The British Solomon Islands Protectorate). He carried out the first census of the New Hebrides with Norma MacArthur in 1967, and subsequently reported on it.
Yaxley first moved to Colonial Hong Kong in 1977, where he served in various posts. By 1984 he was Acting Secretary for Trade and Industry. He held the office of Deputy Financial Secretary (and was briefly Acting Financial Secretary) to the Treasury Branch from 1987 to 1989 under Chief Secretary David Ford. From 1989 to 1993 he was based in London as the Commissioner for the Hong Kong Government Office. In 1990 Yaxley, writing to The Times, defended the actions of the Hong Kong government in its handling of Vietnamese boat people refugee cases, pointing out that all refugee claimants were granted legal aid in their cases against removal and granted the writ of habeas corpus.
He retired in 1994 and subsequently served on the Council of Durham University, later becoming a trustee of the Prayer Book Society in 2005. In November 2001, Yaxley, now living in Fifield, Oxfordshire, resigned from two directorships in property management.
- Yaxley, John (1999). "In the western Pacific and Hong Kong, 1960–1990". In Smith, John (ed.). Administering empire: the British colonial service in retrospect. University of London Press. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
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- Yaxley, John (25 October 1957). "Prospects for the term". Palatinate (105): 6.
- "Supplement to the London Gazette, 17th October 1958". The London Gazette. p. 6333. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
- MacArthur, Norma; Yaxley, J. F. (1968). Condominium of the New Hebrides: a report on the first census of the population 1967. New South Wales Government. ISBN 9780824815974. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
- "Official Report of Proceedings" (PDF). Hong Kong Legislative Council. 25 April 1984: 858. Retrieved 21 April 2019. Cite journal requires
- "Hong Kong Housing Home Page - HKHA List of Members of 1986–1987". City University of Hong Kong. Hong Kong Housing Society. 1987. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
- Samuels, H. (1992). "The Detention of Vietnamese Asylum Seekers in Hong Kong: re Pham Van Ngo and 110 Others". The International and Comparative Law Quarterly. 41 (2): 431. ISSN 0020-5893. JSTOR 760928.
- "No. 52173". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 June 1990. p. 16.
- "Prayer Book Society Journal, Trinity 2006" (PDF). Retrieved 28 May 2018.
- "John Francis YAXLEY - Personal Appointments". Companies House. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
| Hong Kong Commissioner in London
David Robert Ford