HKSAR govt could step in if Law Society dominated by pro-opposition candidates: experts
Published: Aug 24, 2021 10:57 PM
Photo: A screenshot of the Hong Kong Law Society website

Photo: A screenshot of the Hong Kong Law Society website

As 11 candidates raced for five seats on the Hong Kong Law Society's council on Tuesday, the professional body has been repeatedly warned not to put politics above professionalism. Some legal experts warned that if the group is dominated by pro-opposition candidates, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government may probably step in by closely monitoring Law Society's future conduct and statement or may end cooperation with it.

Five candidates including Careen Wong and Jimmy Chan, who support the pro-establishment camp, won the election, according to local news site TVB News.

Among the candidates, four are considered as coming from the pro-opposition camp including Jonathan Ross who recently announced he was withdrawing his name as candidate "for safety concerns," Selma Masood, Henry Wheare and Denis Brock. These candidates tend to favor the opposition camp and some have criticized the disqualification of legislators last November which was based on the criteria for the qualification of Hong Kong lawmakers set by China's top legislature and voiced support for anti-government protesters.  

The other five are from the "professionalism camp" and two have an unknown stance, according to local media reports. If the pro-opposition camp wins the bid, the number of lawyers from the camp would account for more than half of total council members of the Law Society, the reports said. 

Days ahead of the council election of the largest lawyer body in Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, chief executive of the HKSAR government, warned the Law Society not to let politics override its professionalism, otherwise the government would consider ending cooperation with it.

Following the recent dissolutions of civil and professional groups such as the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) and the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union (PTU), Lam warned that other civil groups and professional associations should strictly follow the rule of law, which should not deviate from the main governing principles. 

It is superficially  a race between "liberals" and "professionals" but in fact it is a battle between justice and evil, as several pro-opposition candidates had reportedly supported the anti-government black-clad violence, severely going against a new era under the national security law for Hong Kong and the implementation of the principle that only patriots govern Hong Kong, Louis Chen, general secretary of Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

"Even if they are elected by luck, they couldn't help advance the development of Hong Kong legal work nor the legal exchange work between the mainland and Hong Kong. They may also resist the national security law for Hong Kong," Chen said. 

According to the Legal Practitioners Ordinance, the Law Society issues the practicing certificates, intervenes in law firms' practice when necessary and establishes rules for the conduct and education of solicitors and trainee solicitors. 

If pro-opposition candidates win the election, the HKSAR government may consider revoking the power of the Law Society, such as self-supervision, issuing certificates and handling complaints, therefore ending cooperation with it, as those from pro-opposition camp disguise their true intention of making the Law Society a pro-West group, Willy Fu, vice chairman of the Executive Council of Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation, told the Global Times on Tuesday.  

Most lawyers hope that the Law Society can focus more on the professional side and work for the well-being of lawyers rather than becoming a political group, Kennedy Wong Ying-ho, solicitor of the Supreme Court of Hong Kong and a member of the Law Society of Hong Kong, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

If a lawyer with obvious political leanings becomes president of the law group, it is likely that 12,000 members and funds will be "kidnapped" to serve politics, which is something most members do not want to see, he said, noting that if liberal candidates dominate the Law Society, then the government may amend the relevant regulations to transfer some of the Society's powers to other bodies.