Former Bar Council chairperson Paul Lam has said that “the Bar is one big family” and that members will unite behind newly-elected head Philip Dykes to take on “the many challenges Hong Kong will face in the coming year.”

Dykes was elected chairman of the Council in a surprise victory on Thursday evening, beating Lam by around 100 votes. Four other prominent lawyers on his team — Johannes Chan, Lawrence Lok, Erik Shum and Randy Shek — also won seats on the 20-member Council. On Lam’s proposed list of members, Kim Rooney was elected.

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

The Bar Council governs the Bar Association, an influential professional organisation for barristers in Hong Kong. It is the first election in over a decade which has seen competition. Around 400 of the city’s practising barristers voted in person, drawing long lines in Hutchison House, Admiralty. Others voted by proxy ballot.

Dykes previously headed the Council in 2005 and 2006. His team’s platform focussed on reforming legal aid and providing more assistance to young barristers.

philip dykes list
Five of the six lawyers on the list were elected. Photo: PhilipDykes’ List – HKBA election 2018 via Facebook.

In a concession speech posted onto his team’s page, Lam extended his congratulations to Dykes and wished him all the best. He also expressed warm gratitude towards members for their trust and faith. “Many more of you have come to the AGM to support us than we had dared to believe. A big thank you.”

Under Paul Lam, the Bar released strong statements on the controversial joint checkpoint arrangement for the Express Rail Link, the uproar over the jailing of seven police officers convicted of assault, the imprisonment of pro-democracy protesters in August, as well as the recent sentencing of Frankly Chu, a now-retired superintendent who assaulted a pedestrian.

‘Strong and powerful defender’

The Progressive Lawyers Group’s Craig Choy told HKFP that he was very happy about the outcome of the election as he had supported Dykes’ list, and five of the six members won seats.

Asked about his expectations towards Dykes, Choy said that he hoped he could continue to be vocal on behalf of the Bar Association: “I’ll be content if he can respond to society’s expectations and the wishes of the public. The upcoming year is especially critical because of the three major issues — the national anthem law, Article 23 [of the Basic Law] and other matters relating to the co-location arrangement.”

Choy also said he often speaks to young barristers who discuss their struggles about surviving in the industry and he hoped Dykes could give assistance to them, whether it’s through communicating with the government or exploring new initiatives.

craig choy
Craig Choy. File

Senior Counsel Audrey Eu, who supported Philip Dykes, gave thanks to all her fellow barristers who voted. “Paul Lam’s campaign emphasised ‘apolitical’ — grateful to the barristers who did not shy away from defending the rule of law because they were afraid of politics,” she said on social media.

Civic Party lawmaker and barrister Alvin Yeung also thanked Dykes for “coming forward even in the midst of misfortunes in life and making preparations for an election campaign in an extremely short amount of time.” Dykes recently lost his daughter.

“In these times, Hong Kong really needs a strong and powerful defender like him to defend the cornerstone of rule of law as the circumstances grow increasingly challenging,” Yeung 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.