Top legal scholar Eric Cheung has resigned from the Law Society of Hong Kong council with immediate effect, before the end of his term of office. Law Society President Melissa Pang said the professional body respects his decision.

It “would like to express its gratitude to him for his contribution and service to the Law Society,” she said in a statement given to the press. 

Eric Cheung
Eric Cheung. Photo: Eric Cheung, via Facebook.

The University of Hong Kong principal lecturer announced his departure from the council in a Facebook post on Monday, after serving as a member for more than three years. His current term would have concluded in mid-2022.

“Given my various priorities and commitments, I have been struggling hard to continue to discharge responsibly my duties as a council member of the Law Society,” he wrote.

Changed priorities

The scholar said he will instead focus on other priorities, which include pro bono legal services and “maintaining a more balanced life with quality time” with family and friends.

With his resignation Cheung will also depart from two of the Society’s six Standing Committees of which he was a member.

The Council has the power to co-opt a member to fill his vacancy until the next annual general meeting, Pang said.

The professional body – which has regulatory powers over the city’s solicitors and law firms – saw five new council members elected to replace some of its longest-standing members in an election last week. The closely-watched race pitted the Society’s “liberal camp” against its “professionalism camp”. Members of the latter have ties with the city’s pro-establishment groups.

Cheung said he had decided to resign from the Council “irrespective of the outcome of the election.”

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

Cheung’s departure means that the “professionalism” camp now holds a majority of 13 seats on the council. Five seats remain in the hands of the “liberals,” and one seat is occupied by a member who belongs to neither group. The Law Society membership includes more than 12,000 solicitors.

In the days leading up to the council election,  Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng, and People’s Daily, Beijing’s media mouthpiece, all warned the Law Society to steer clear of politics and not follow in the footsteps of the more outspoken Hong Kong Bar Association. Lam said the Law Society was at risk of having its regulatory powers taken away by the government.

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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.