A publication of the Law Society, a professional association of Hong Kong’s solicitors, has drawn criticism after featuring five pro-Beijing lawmakers. The latest issue includes the Society’s council member and ex-president Junius Ho Kwan-yiu.
The Hong Kong Lawyer journal typically features senior lawyers, legal experts and judges for its cover stories. It interviewed Senior Counsel Ronny Tong last year, but one month after he resigned from the legislature. This is the first time in five years that the publication featured incumbent lawmakers.
The other four featured were Eunice Yung of the New People’s Party, industrial (second) sector lawmaker Jimmy Ng, and the DAB party’s Holden Chow and Horace Cheung. All five lawyers are first-time lawmakers.
The interviews focused on their motivations to pursue a career in law and politics, and their goals as legislators.
Lawyer Kevin Yam, who two years ago tabled a successful petition to remove the Law Society’s president for endorsing Beijing’s controversial white paper on Hong Kong, spoke to HKFP. He said that given the journal’s longstanding apolitical stance, its latest cover story “essentially has the effect of promoting the political side of a Law Society council member and his political allies.”
Another issue, he said, is the interviewees’ lack of sensitivity that the arrangement might create the perception that a professional body is using resources paid by its members to promote the profiles of politicians of one camp.
“These people are lawyers, and lawyers are always sensitive about the perception of conflict of interests – I’m not even accusing anyone of any actual conflict although it has the effect of creating one,” Yam said.
He added that even if Ho was not involved in the editorial decision, as a council member he should have asked whether he was acting in the best interest of the Society by allowing himself to be put in a position that may be seen as problematic.
“When a group of lawyers cannot see what the problem might be… that brings shame to the profession. I think it’s worrying – especially on Ho’s part – that a legal profession is represented by someone who isn’t sensitive to these things.”
Some legal professionals also expressed disapproval of the journal’s choice. Some said on social media that they had immediately discarded their subscribed copies of the publication.
In response, the Law Society told HKFP that the editorial board “noted that there [was] an unusually large number of legal practitioners who were elected for the first time to LegCo” and hence an interview with them would be “timely, topical and relevant to the target readers of the journal.”
It said that apart from “originality, accuracy and objectivity,” the relevance of a topic is also considered. However, it added, “political affiliation is never a factor.”
“The cover story of the November 2016 issue is no exception to the above editorial policy all along adopted by the journal. The standard questions asked at the interview related to their experience and career as a legal practitioner. There was no discussion on political views,” the Society said.
This is not the first time the Law Society has come under fire. In 2014, its then-president Ambrose Lam was criticised for endorsing Beijing’s white paper that categorised Hong Kong’s judges as “administrators” who should love the country. Lam was unseated after a historic vote of no confidence was passed with 2,392 votes for and 1,478 against.