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Law Society Council election: Why lawmaker Junius Ho should be voted out

By Kevin Yam. Read Ho’s rebuttal here.

The Law Society’s Annual General Meeting will take place on 26 May 2017, at which five members of its Council will be elected to 4-year terms.  In the past, I have consistently maintained a public silence over candidates in Law Society Council elections.

But I cannot stay silent this year, as Junius Ho (or HO Kwan Yiu on the ballot) is running for re-election as Council member this year.  I strongly believe that he is not an appropriate candidate to continue as a Council member, with reasons including the following:

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Junius Ho Kwan-yiu. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

Conflicts between roles: Junius Ho is now a Geographical Constituency legislator.  He has voting stances on various legislative issues.  As a Law Society Council member, he is now the only public official (using the word “official” in its broader sense to include all who exercise public powers) with the opportunity regularly to lobby the Law Society to support his stances.  This creates at least the perception of a conflict between Junius Ho’s legislator and Law Society Council roles.

Disregard for prosecutorial independence: Article 63 of the Basic Law states that “the Department of Justice … shall control criminal prosecutions, free from any interference.”  And yet, Junius Ho has seen fit to try and give directions to the Secretary for Justice on what charges he should be bringing in connection with the 2016 Mong Kok unrest, as well as on appeals against the Court’s ruling in connection to the occupation of Civic Square just before the commencement of the 2014 Umbrella Movement.  Such disregard for prosecutorial independence by a lawyer is staggering.

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Student occupation of Civic Square on September 27, 2014. File Photo: Occupy Central with Love and Peace.

Disregard for One Country, Two Systems: Save for the issue of conflicts referred to above, Junius Ho’s Legislative Council role has no bearing on the Law Society Council elections per se.

However, by publicly thanking the China Liaison Office for his 2016 Legislative Council election victory, Ho is showing a blatant disregard for the ban under Article 22 of the Basic Law on Central Government entities interfering in Hong Kong affairs.  Given his disregard for Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, how can Ho be trusted as a Law Society Council member to defend professional autonomy?

Disregard for the rule of law: It is one thing to be sympathetic to the difficulties faced by police officers in protest settings (I have also previously expressed such sympathies in a piece of Chinese-language commentary).  But it is quite another for Junius Ho to justify the illegal assault of a protester by seven members of the police force as “small punishment in order to prevent someone from making a bigger mistake in the future”.

Ho’s condoning and justifying such private acts of vengeance by the police constitutes a disregard for the rule of law.

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Seven police officers were convicted of assault against activist Ken Tsang during Occupy. Photo: HKFP/Ellie Ng.

Disregard for the Judiciary: Any lawyer would know that save for special ceremonial occasions, the taking of photographs in and outside courtrooms is strictly prohibited.  But Junius Ho saw fit to strike a flippant pose in pointing a thumb at a courtroom to take a “selfie”.

When Ho was ultimately not criminally prosecuted for this act, not only did he not reflect upon his conduct in court premises, but he even accused the Judiciary staff member who took the matter to the police of “having nothing better to do”.  How can the legal profession be represented by someone who is so devoid of respect for the Judiciary?

Misogyny: During an appearance at RTHK’s City Forum, Junius Ho suggested that a female co-panellist stripped off her clothing.  More recently, when attacking political opponents, Ho said they were like “someone who is bleeding, it’s menstruation, thinking every month that they are being persecuted … if they are ill they should see a doctor.”

Solicitors deserve better than to have an apparently misogynistic representative.  Indeed, it may be said that if a practising solicitor made similar remarks in a law firm office environment, he might be given a warning letter or even be dismissed from employment.

Homophobia: I understand and respect that there are different views within society as regards homosexuality.  But Junius Ho’s recent attempt to link homosexuality with bestiality constitutes a vile form of homophobia.

His comments run counter to efforts in recent years by more and more law firms to create non-discriminatory work environments for members of the LGBT community.

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Hong Kong Gay Pride. File Photo: HKFP.

I therefore urge members of the Law Society not to vote for Junius Ho.  In the coming few days, the Law Society will send to all members documents relating to the Council elections, including forms for proxy voting and postal ballot.  I would recommend that members do not give any proxies to any other members, and instead personally vote by way of postal ballot.

The tally of votes will be conducted by a reputable and independent company, such that members need not worry about privacy when casting postal ballots.

There are eight candidates for the Law Society’s Council this year.  In order to avoid votes being spread amongst different candidates such as to facilitate Junius Ho’s election, I urge members to vote for the following five candidates.  This list was collated after speaking with a number of solicitors, and was compiled on the basis of the profession’s interests rather than political considerations (indeed, some of the individuals below are known to have vastly different political views to mine):

  • BROCK Denis Gareth: He is the Hong Kong managing partner of an international law firm, and can thus bring his large organization management experience to the Law Society.
  • HUNG Wan Shun, Stephen: When he was Law Society President, he played a steadying role in the aftermath of the no-confidence motion against former President Ambrose Lam. Hung has also played a leading role on professional issues such as criminal legal aid.
  • MA Wah Yan, Billy: Sources familiar with the affairs of the Law Society’s Council have informed me that Ma has consistently been a fair-minded Council member focused on getting things done.
  • RHODA Robert Christopher: As an arbitration specialist, Rhoda would be an asset to the Law Society as it seeks to promote Hong Kong’s arbitration capabilities.
  • ROSS Jonathan: As a Chinese speaker who has worked as an in-house lawyer in both Chinese and international enterprises, and a core member of the Hong Kong Corporate Counsel Association, Ross can bring more in-house lawyer perspectives into the Law Society Council.

Let’s hope that solicitors can be united in voting Junius Ho out of the Law Society’s Council.

Kevin Yam is a solicitor. The views expressed above are the author’s own, and do not represent the views of his law firm, organisations to which he belongs.

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Law Society Council election: Why lawmaker Junius Ho should be voted out