All five solicitors representing the “professionalism” camp have beaten other candidates vying for seats on the Law Society of Hong Kong’s council, including four from the liberal camp.

Candidates Jimmy Chan Kwok-Ho, Fu Ka-min, Ronald Sum Kwan, Wong Hau-yan and Yuen Hoi-ying each nabbed over 3,300 votes at the end of the professional association’s polls late on Tuesday.

From left to right: Jimmy Chan Kwok-ho, Fu Ka-min, Wong Hau-yan, Yuen Hoi-ying, and Ronald Sum. Photo: Stand News.

The five newly-elected members with ties to the city’s pro-establishment camps have defeated those supported by the association’s liberal faction — Denis Brock, Henry Wheare and Selma Masood — by about 1,000 votes each. They also beat two other candidates who received less than 300 votes respectively, Citizen News reported. Liberal camp candidates won over 1,000 votes fewer than they had during last year’s council election, when they nabbed four out of five council seats.

The five winners admitted they had ties to Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong but said that such ties were irrelevant in the election, RTHK reported. Wong received pro-Beijing lawmaker and solicitor Junius Ho’s endorsement during the 2018 council election, and her husband is a Yuen Long District Councillor supported by rural figures. Yuen is member of a municipal Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee, while Chan is a partner of a mainland law firm.

Law Society of Hong Kong. Photo: inmediahk.net CC By 2.0.

The election saw over 6,000 ballots in total, HK01 reported, although over 300 mail-in ballots were disqualified as they were delivered after the cut-off date, according to Citizen News.

Incumbent council and liberal camp member Jonathan Ross announced his withdrawal from the race on Saturday, citing safety threats against his family and himself. He remained on the ballots as the election had no withdrawal mechanism.

Tuesday’s election for the professional body – which has regulatory powers – saw new council members elected to replace some of its longest-standing members. The race was seen as a watershed moment as the “liberal camp” had occupied seven out of 20 seats on the council. Had the camp won all five seats, they would have gained a majority in the body that counts over 12,000 solicitors amongst its membership.

Professionalism vs. Liberal

With its new members, 13 seats will be occupied by the council’s “professionalism” camp and six seats by the liberal camp. One seat will be occupied by a member who belongs to neither.

In the days leading up to the council election, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and state-owned media outlets warned that the Law Society should steer clear of politics and not follow the footsteps of the homologous and more outspoken Hong Kong Bar Association — or risk having its regulatory powers taken away by the government.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam. File Photo: GovHK.

Addressing the issue of having the society’s regulatory powers taken away, Sum, one of the five winners, told reporters he hoped the government would no longer raise such demands.

Fu said he did not believe Lam’s comments helped get them elected. “The risk of having the industry’s self-regulatory powers taken away is very low as long as politics does not override professionalism,” he said.

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Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.