The Hong Kong Bar Association has asked barristers who received remuneration from a now-defunct protester relief fund to submit written explanations over suspected professional misconduct, Oriental Daily and Sing Tao reported.

Hong Kong Bar Association Bar Council. File photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

According to its report on Tuesday, the association has sent letters to some 35 barristers since June 27.

The letters reportedly list court cases related to the 2019 protests which were handled by the lawyers in question. The barristers stand accused of violating the profession’s Code of Conduct by bypassing solicitors representing defendants and collecting remuneration directly from the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund.

Sing Tao quoted sources as saying all the barristers concerned had practised for less than five years. Some had allegedly received HK$3,000 to HK$6,000 per day spent in court from the fund, while claiming they worked pro bono – without charge.

The association told HKFP a probe was underway: “We are not in a position to respond or comment on the updates or details in the investigation before it is concluded,” they said in a statement on Tuesday.

National security arrests

The city’s national security police unit said in May it had uncovered misconduct by some lawyers linked to the 612 fund and had filed complaints to the Law Society of Hong Kong, which represents solicitors, and to the Hong Kong Bar Association. It did not describe the alleged misconduct.

612 Humanitarian Relief Fund trustees Cardinal Joseph Zen, Margaret Ng, Hui Po-Keung and Denise Ho. Photo: Screenshot via Facebook.

The statement was made on May 12, shortly after the arrest of five former trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, including 90-year-old Cardinal Zen and prominent barrister Margaret Ng.

Police said they were suspected of colluding with foreign forces, an offence under the Beijing-imposed national security law, but the five have not yet been formally charged with this.

Separately, the five trustees and the fund’s secretary were accused of failing to apply for registration or exemption from registration for the fund under the Societies Ordinance. All pleaded not guilty and will appear in court again on September 19.

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Peter Lee

Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.