The Law Society of Hong Kong has confirmed it received a complaint from the police national security unit over suspected lawyers’ misconduct in connection with a defunct protester relief fund. But the professional body refused to disclose any details, saying the investigation must be kept confidential.

Law Society of Hong Kong
From left to right: Christopher Yu, Amirali Nasir, Chan Chak-ming and Roden Tong of the Law Society of Hong Kong. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The organisation representing solicitors in Hong Kong said on Monday that it had launched a probe into allegations made by the National Security Department of the Police, which accused some solicitors and barristers of professional misconduct when providing legal services.

The claim was linked to the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund which provided financial aid and legal support to protesters during the 2019 unrest, said President of the Law Society of Hong Kong Chan Chak-ming. He declined to confirm or refute media reports that the police accused some lawyers of receiving compensation from the fund despite taking protest-related cases on a pro bono basis.

Five former trustees of the fund, which ceased operations last October, were arrested in mid May on suspicion of breaching the Beijing-imposed national security law. Those arrested were 90-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen, prominent barrister Margaret Ng, singer Denise Ho, scholar Hui Po-keung and jailed ex-lawmaker Cyd Ho. They stand accused of colluding with foreign forces and have not been formally charged.

The group will appear in court on Tuesday morning after receiving a summons accusing them of failing to apply for registration or exemption from registration for the fund within the specified time under the Societies Ordinance.

‘Inappropriate’ to disclose details

Roden Tong, a vice-president of the Law Society, said there was much speculation surrounding the complaint. He said the professional group wished to explain the matter to the public “on the premise of confidentiality.”

The society chief pledged that the misconduct complaint would be handled in a “fair, impartial and objective manner regardless of the gravity of the allegations.” But it would be “inappropriate” for him to reveal information on the nature of the alleged wrongdoing, the number of solicitors involved and their identity, he said.

Law Society of Hong Kong
Law Society of Hong Kong. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

“We will, at appropriate juncture, increase transparency to let the public know the details of the investigation,” Chan told reporters.

Christopher Yu, vice-president of the Law Society, said the professional group has an established mechanism to handle complaints set out in the Hong Kong Solicitor’s Guide to Professional Conduct. If necessary, the case would be referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal Panel whose members are appointed by Chief Justice Andrew Cheung.

The penalty would depend on the severity of the misconduct, the society added, with lawyers found to have committed wrongdoing being potentially struck off from the solicitors’ list.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.