I'll keep out of politics, says Law Society chief

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 May, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 May, 2004, 12:00am

The new Law Society president says he will talk more about business and less about politics.

Michael Lintern-Smith, elected on Thursday to succeed Simon Ip Shing-hing, also said he would fight for greater welfare for lawyers. He admitted he was 'moving into a very hot seat', given the recent controversy over how to meet the shortfall in the solicitors' indemnity fund.

Mr Lintern-Smith, the society's first non- Chinese president in more than a decade, told the South China Morning Post it was not his business to talk about politics.

'I have been elected ... to look after [members'] interests. I will comment on legal matters, on things which affect the courts, their livelihood.

'I don't think they should expect me to be their voice for political matters. I am sure most of my members know more than I do about politics. If they want somebody to voice their opinions, they should go to politicians,' he said.

Mr Lintern-Smith said the society would nonetheless be prepared to give its opinion on legal matters in relation to constitutional reform.

It was natural that the Hong Kong public would have questions about problems such as the National People's Congress' interpretation of the Basic Law because of the differences between the legal systems in Hong Kong and on the mainland, he said.

'I think the rule of law is alive and well and is very strong,' he said.

The society has often been criticised for not taking a strong stance in defence of the rule of law. The Bar Association, representing barristers, has been much more vocal on issues. He plans to streamline the way senior society members decide its stance on issues of public concern.

Asked what difference he would make as Law Society president, the British-born 54-year-old, who has lived in Hong Kong for more than 20 years, said: 'I am a gweilo, a westerner ... I hope I am a better communicator.'