The chair of Hong Kong’s Bar Association has said that the group will no longer offer a legal course at Peking University after the school barred two members from teaching.

Over the past eight years, the professional organisation has offered a course on common law to students at the Beijing-based school. It aims to provide mainland students with an opportunity to learn about the spirit of the rule of law and the Hong Kong legal system.

Chairman Philip Dykes said in a letter to the association’s members on Monday that the university abruptly changed its mind about his visit in May, after he requested a letter of invitation for his visa application.

Philip Dykes bar association
Philip Dykes. File photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

He said the invitation was sent to the Bar Secretariat, “but, within a day or two, a phone call from the university gave the message that I must not come.”

“No explanation was given for the volte face,” Dykes wrote, referring to the rejection.

Dykes said the reason for his visit was so he could attend the course’s closing sessions and get to the bottom of the university’s rejection of two members who had taught the sessions on public law in previous years. He said a university official had phoned to say that they objected to the members teaching the 2018 session.

“The PU [Peking University] course has been running for several years. Successive BC’s [Bar Councils] and the PU have considered it a success and there was no reason to think that the 2018 course would be different,” Dykes wrote.

“Past Chairmen had attended the closing sessions before and so there was a precedent for me going up.”

bar association peking u
The common law course at Peking University. Photo: HKBA.

He said the Bar Council – the association’s governing body – found the rejections to be “unacceptable,” and decided that the common law course should be suspended indefinitely.

Dykes said he did not immediately reveal the news of the rejections as he did not want Peking University students visiting Hong Kong for the course to be distracted or embarrassed.

See also: Interview: Barrister Philip Dykes says rising voices against judicial review will harm Hong Kong’s rule of law

He added that he plans to lead a delegation to a legal services forum in Guangzhou in early September. The forum is organised by the Department of Justice and the Hong Kong Trade and Development Council.

bar association peking u
The common law course at Peking University. Photo: HKBA.

Dykes was elected head of the Bar Council this year after a surprise victory against incumbent chair Paul Lam. Dykes previously headed the Council in 2005 and 2006.

HKFP has contacted Peking University for comment.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.