A team led by human rights lawyer Philip Dykes, who are running for Hong Kong Bar Association governing positions, have said they are disappointed by an arrangement revoking proxy votes and over the lack of vote counting scrutiny, despite suggestions made by Dykes’ team.

The Bar Council, which governs the Association, has decided that a member who previously submitted a proxy form – but subsequently decides to attend the annual general meeting in person next Thursday – must actively inform their proxy holder before the meeting that they wish to revoke their proxy form. Otherwise, they will not be entitled to cast their vote in person even if  they are physically at the meeting.

Dykes’ team said that the logistical arrangement could meant that members may be deterred from voting simply because they have already submitted a proxy form. Usually, the proxy holder is the member’s senior.

Philip Dykes. Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

“Inevitably, some members (especially junior members) will feel embarrassed or inhibited at being required to actively inform his proxy holder before the AGM that he wishes to revoke his proxy,” they said in a statement. “That is why we have suggested that a member’s attendance at the AGM should *automatically* invalidate any proxy form that he has given; in this way, any embarrassment or inhibition would be minimised.”

“This is commonly done, without undue difficulty, in AGMs of companies and other organisations; further, there is nothing in the Bar’s Regulations which prevents this. Our firm belief is that every member should be given the maximum opportunity to participate in the AGM and vote according to his own preferences.”

They also suggested an alternative arrangement whereby a member can revoke their proxy by communicating directly with the Bar Secretariat, so that they would not be required to also communicate with their proxy holder.

Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

“In any event, no matter how the Bar Council decides, we would encourage *all* members to attend the AGM to vote in person. Any member who has given us their proxy form should feel completely free to ask for it back at any time, without any embarrassment or apprehension,” they said.

They added that it be would welcomed, if their rival list led by incumbent Association chair Paul Lam, make a similar pledge.

Usually, an incumbent chair is not challenged when seeking re-election. But Dykes ran for the chairmanship with five prominent lawyers running for the Council, criticising Lam for his previous lack of strong response over the Express Rail Link’s joint checkpoint plan. As Dykes’ team announced their run and China’s top legislature approved the plan, the Bar Association voiced strong criticism.

Paul Lam. Photo: Citizen News.

Dykes’ team also said the Bar Council decided that – at the annual general meeting next week – no independent firm will be engaged to scrutinise the vote and proxy counting. According to them, the Bar Council considered the high costs of HK$68,000 plus an hourly charge.

“However, we consider that such cost is justified given the importance of this election and the need to ensure a perception of uncontroverted fairness. The engagement of the firm would assist in the logistics of dealing with proxy forms. It is also a relatively modest amount in the context of the Bar’s annual budget,” Dykes’ team said.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.