Incumbent Hong Kong Bar Council chairperson Paul Lam announced on Wednesday that he is seeking re-election to the professional body, amid a well-publicised challenge from human rights lawyer Philip Dykes.
Lam is backed by several former chairpersons including Winnie Tam and Ronny Tong, the latter of whom is now a member of Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s advisory council.
Lam’s supporters also include Joseph Lee – the son of pro-democracy veteran legislator and barrister Martin Lee, who has backed Dykes.
The Bar Council governs the Bar Association, which is the influential professional organisation for barristers in Hong Kong.
The Association raised eyebrows this October when issuing only a three-sentence statement on the Express Rail Link’s joint checkpoint plan, asking the government to provide details of the arrangement to the public. Over recent months, the pro-democracy camp has criticised the plan to enforce mainland laws across part of the West Kowloon station, saying it is a violation of the Basic Law.
Barrister Erik Shum – who supports Dykes – added on Commercial Radio on Thursday that the Bar Association should now indicate its view on the checkpoint arrangement given that Beijing announced details on Wednesday.
“It doesn’t matter whether it supports or does not support the arrangement. But if it does not say anything at all… I would feel very disappointed.”
Listing his achievements over the past year in a re-election statement, Lam said that his council “defended unjustified attacks on the judiciary from different ends of the political spectrum firmly and swiftly.”
Hong Kong’s judges have faced a series of criticisms over the past year following the jailings of both protesters and police officers.
“We engaged in frank discussions on important legal and constitutional issues with the Central Authorities and other interested parties both in Hong Kong and overseas,” added the civil lawyer. “[The Bar] has no cause but to serve the rule of law. The Bar is not a partisan spokesman for any political force.”
A ‘gentleman’s battle’
Lam’s announcement comes a week after that of Dykes, who previously headed the Council in 2005 and 2006. Dykes is backed by a team including Hong Kong University professor Johannes Chan and criminal lawyer Lawrence Lok.
Speaking to Commercial Radio earlier this week, Chan said that Dykes is only running to be chairperson because Hong Kong’s rule of law and judicial independence is facing increasing challenges.
“This is a gentleman’s battle,” said Chan. “This is not because [Dykes] wants to bring anyone down, and it’s not a matter of pro-democracy versus pro-establishment.”
“Everyone who runs is independent, and nobody has a political party background.”
【In Your Hands – HKBA Election 2018
Joint Statement from Philip Dykes’ List】
The Bar is a respected Hong Kong…
“We believe that at this time, more than ever, the Bar needs to maintain its image as a body that is willing to speak out authoritatively and independently on important constitutional and legal issues,” wrote Dykes in Monday’s election statement.
“The Bar is not only a profession, but an honourable institution that stands for important principles and ideals.”
The vote takes place on January 18.