Two teams of candidates running against each other in the Bar Council election have thanked their supporters in statements posted online, hours ahead of the annual general meeting when a vote will take place.

The Bar Council governs the Bar Association, an influential professional organisation for barristers in Hong Kong. Human rights barrister Philip Dykes and five other prominent lawyers announced last month that they will be running for the Bar Council election, with Dykes as proposed chairman. Dykes previously headed the Council in 2005 and 2006.

Philip Dykes bar association
Philip Dykes. Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

Incumbent chairman Paul Lam is also seeking re-election, making it the first contested election in a decade. As Dykes’ team announced their run, the Bar Association voiced strong criticism towards China’s approval of the controversial joint checkpoint arrangement for the Express Rail Link,

The association called the arrangement – which involves enforcing mainland laws in part of the West Kowloon terminal – an “irreparable” breach of the Basic Law. Dykes’ team has also been outspoken in their opposition towards the plan.

In a statement posted on social media on Thursday morning, Dykes’ list of lawyers said: “The shape of the next Bar Council is now in members’ hands.”

“But whatever the result, we will be deeply grateful for the opportunity to meet with so many of you; to learn about the livelihood issues that affect you; and to discuss the future of our profession with you,” the six lawyers said.

philip dykes list
Six prominent lawyers are running against incumbent chairman Paul Lam. Photo: PhilipDykes’ List – HKBA election 2018 via Facebook.

“We are also immensely thankful for all the support, encouragement, and help that we have received – without which we could never have gotten this far. No matter what happens, we will always keep working for the Bar and for the rule of law.”

Dykes’ team has received support from senior counsels such as Martin Lee, Gladys Li, Alan Leong and Audrey Eu, while Lam and his proposed members elicited support from former chairpersons such as Winnie Tam and Ronny Tong.

Lam also wrote to the Bar Association’s members on Monday, giving thanks to their volunteers who wish to ensure the Bar is “run by barristers and barristers alone” and that it is one which “speaks out in the public interest and will be and always remain a staunch and unwavering supporter of the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.”

Paul Lam
Paul Lam. Photo: Stand News.

“To those who are unsure how to vote, we humbly invite you to look at the evidence dispassionately and the testimonials of our many members, from the most junior to the most senior, why they support the Bar remaining apolitical and detached from politics and manifestly so,” he said.

“We have faith you will not listen to the sirens who do not understand our traditions and not care for our values.”

“To those who have been critical of us in the last month and months, we wish to say that we respect your views and if we are elected tomorrow we promise that as we have done in the past, a diversity of views and expertise will be represented in the Council. We promise to represent all barristers and their values and aspirations.”

The Bar Council earlier decided that a member who previously submitted a proxy form – but subsequently decides to attend the annual general meeting in person – 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 have criticised the arrangements, saying that it could deter members from voting simply because they have already submitted a proxy form. Usually, the proxy holder is the member’s senior, and junior members could be embarrassed at having to inform their seniors, the lawyers said.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.