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The Hong Kong Bar Association is under pressure to remove a new chairman over links with the British political party
The Hong Kong Bar Association Governing Council is under increasing pressure to decide whether to remain chairman of Paul Harris SC after taking office as a member of the UK Liberal Democrats. Prominent lawyers at the pro-establishment camp allege Harris, a veteran human rights attorney, damaged the credibility of the professional organization, which represents more than 1,500 attorneys and senior lawyers. They argue he should at least have declared his political affiliation before his election last month, despite opposition camp leaders defending Harris, saying he got caught in the tug-of-war between the association and Beijing over how the “rule of law” works latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China. I will not play a role in British politics while I am chairman of the bar. Paul Harris His membership in the Liberal Democrats is also viewed as problematic by some, as the relationship between the government and Britain on creating a new path to citizenship for London is bad for millions of Hong Kong residents due to concerns about national security law for status of a UK national (overseas) are eligible. Hong Kong announced last month that the passports could no longer be used for travel, and last week banks said they would no longer accept them as identification. Harris, who was appointed to the bar in 1993 and senior counsel in 2006, found that under the association’s rules, chairmen were free to belong to any political party and not required to disclose affiliation. “I won’t play a role in British politics as long as I chair the bar. [and] I am not a member of any political party in Hong Kong, ”he told the Post on Wednesday. Since Harris won the undisputed election last month, he has criticized Beijing officials for his views on the national security law. He said he would look into the possibility of “getting the Hong Kong government to approve some changes” passed by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the country’s top legislative body, last June. Harris suggested that some provisions conflict with rights guaranteed by the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution. “We are not a political organization,” says the Hong Kong Bar Association. But Beijing’s two top agencies overseeing Hong Kong affairs beat him down, saying the Standing Committee has “undeniable and sacred power” to legislate in Hong Kong. Earlier this week, members of the pro-establishment camp called on Harris to resign after British media reports he was a Liberal Democrat and only stepped down before his election as elected councilor on Oxford City Council. Harris told the Post that he had “been a member of the Liberal Democrats for most of my adult life,” but did not say whether he would quit the party to avoid a potential conflict of interest. Former Bar Association chairman Ronny Tong Ka-wah, who advises the city guide as a member of her de facto cabinet, the Executive Council, said he was disappointed with Harris’ stance. “It’s not just about stepping down from a job,” he said. “His membership in a British political party is problematic. As far as I can remember, we have never had an incumbent political party leader … and if Hong Kong’s relationship with the UK is so bad now, how can you properly carry out your role? “However, it is not the first time that an association chairman has come under fire for ties to a political organization. In 2008, the then chairman of the association, Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, who was the city’s justice minister from 2012 to 2018, announced that he had agreed to serve as a delegate to the political advisory conference of the Chinese people in Guangdong, the supreme advisory body of the provincial government. to act. At the time, Tong, who was then the opposition legislature of the Civic Party, and his party colleagues asked Yuen to choose between the two roles. “Yuen stayed because members of the Bar Council supported him and believed the position could help the profession capitalize on the opportunities of mainland China … but some current members didn’t even know about Harris’s political affiliation,” he said. Tong denied claims by his former Civic Party colleagues that he had detained the two men by different standards, insisting that opposition leaders were less critical of Harris than they were before Yuen. “I would only appeal to Harris’ conscience,” said Tong. “If he thinks it’ll help the bar, he should resign.” Some Harris supporters also pointed out that some heads of major Chinese institutions were foreigners with overseas political affiliations. For example, the Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander is Vice President of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. However, Tong argued that the two types of bodies could not be compared, noting that the Bar Association identified “upholding the honor and independence of the Bar Association” as a critical mission. The outgoing chairman of the bar association called for renewal of contacts amid tensions with Beijing attorney and incumbent legislature Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, who is advising Beijing on issues related to the city’s mini-constitution in the Fundamental Rights Committee, and also urged the Advocate Council to check whether Harris should stay, it has been argued that the club’s credibility has been undermined. As long as the association’s relationship with Beijing remained strained, young lawyers would suffer, she argued. “Under Harris’ predecessor Philip Dykes, the council has actually been quite proactive in improving the welfare of young lawyers and helping them seize opportunities in mainland China,” she said. Leung called on the association to make it clear in the future that no member of the council, which forms the ruling core of the Bar Association, should have political affiliation, be it a pro-Beijing or an opposition group. They should also explain any political affiliation and any public office they hold locally or overseas when running for the council, she added. However, on condition of anonymity, one council member said the panel supported Harris, although some were more open in support than others. They believed the attacks were “unfounded and unjustified” as there were no rules preventing a candidate for chairmanship from holding political affiliations or official foreign posts. The rules only required candidates to be registered as a lawyer in Hong Kong and have practiced for more than 10 years. As soon as the association speaks about the … Basic Law … the leaders in Beijing take it as an affront to their authority, Alan Leong, leader of the Civic Party. The member also asked why Harris resigned if Yuen was allowed to stay. Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit, who served as the association’s chairman from 2001 to 2003 after Tong, said conflicts between the association and Beijing are inevitable as long as their understandings of the rule of law differ. “While we are using the law to control public power and protect human rights and freedoms, this system on the mainland should ensure that Communist Party’s policies are implemented without hiccups,” he said. “As soon as the association speaks about the promises and guarantees of the Basic Law, the heads of state and government in Beijing see this as an affront to their authority and a challenge to their political power. It is very unfortunate. “Leong noted that many members of the UK legal guild were members of large political parties. Additional coverage by Chris LauMore of the South China Morning Post: National Security Law: “We are not a political organization,” the Hong Kong Bar Association said after a new BeijingArrest chief was targeted in Hong Kong, a “fairly obvious” abuse of law New head of Hong Kong’s Bar Association says new head of Hong Kong’s top legal organization wants government to amend national security law to have countries reintroduce extradition agreementsNational security law: Hong Kong law groups deny the city is losing its standing as a global court of arbitration in the futureThis article Pressure on the Hong Kong Bar Association to remove new chairman over links with the British political party was first published in the South China Morning Post. For the latest news from the South China Morning Post, download our mobile app. Copyright 2021.