Prominent human rights lawyer Philip Dykes has been elected as the next chairman of the Bar Council following a heated race.

Dykes, along with five other prominent lawyers, ran a high-profile challenge against incumbent chairman Paul Lam. Johannes Chan, Lawrence Lok, Erik Shum and Randy Shek of Dykes’ team, and Kim Rooney of Lam’s team, won seats in the 20-member Council.

The Bar Council governs the Bar Association, an influential professional organisation for barristers in Hong Kong. Usually, an incumbent chair is not challenged when seeking re-election.

Philip Dykes. Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

Around 1,100 members voted. More than 400 of Hong Kong’s 1,400 practising barristers voted in person while others voted by proxy ballots. Dykes beat Lam by around 100 votes.

Lam congratulated Dykes and the winners: “There are no hard feelings.”

“We are all very impressed by the turnout of this election. I think this election provides a very good opportunity for all members of Bar to express matters of their concern. I am quite sure that after this election, the Bar will become stronger,” he said.

Dykes said he also believed the Bar will become stronger: “Because differences have been identified, and they will be addressed by the forthcoming Bar Council. As it were, the members had an opportunity to get things off their chests.”

Voting began at around 6pm, as long lines formed in the lobby of Hutchison House in Central. Dykes joked that his top priority after the election was to see if the procedures could be simplified.

Dykes previously headed the Council in 2005 and 2006. His election platform announced by his team earlier this month pledged more assistance for junior lawyers and reforms to the legal aid scheme.

Bar members lined up at the lobby of the Hutchinson House, where the election took place. Photo: Ellie Ng/HKFP.

Dykes and his team have also been outspoken on the controversial joint checkpoint arrangement for the Express Rail Link, which involves enforcing mainland laws in part of the West Kowloon terminal when it opens later this year.

Asked about relationship with Beijing, Dykes said: “Why should it be worse than before? I am a likeable man, a likeable chap. I don’t see any reason for assuming a deterioration in relationships with mainland organisations.”

“There’s nothing remotely political about me. I am not a member of a political party, I have no aspirations in political posts. In fact I am disqualified by my nationality from having high posts in the Hong Kong SAR government.”

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.