Give me time, urges Bar chief appointed as Guangdong aide

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 January, 2008, 12:00am

Bar Association chairman Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung yesterday asked members to give him time to prove that his decision to accept appointment as a Guangdong government adviser was correct.

Following the association's annual general meeting, which lasted more than three hours last night, the senior counsel stood by his decision to take up the post as a member of the Guangdong provincial Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Mr Yuen, whose chairmanship was uncontested yesterday, vowed he would not compromise his position on human rights and constitutional matters because of the new post.

'We should not allow a misperception to affect a person's decision to do or not to do something. If we stop doing what we believe is right because of what others think, it will not be a positive way to deal with a problem,' he said.

He added that he wanted to use his action to show members that the CPPCC post could allow him to enhance the 'bridge' with the profession across the border and promote the rule of law on the mainland.

His appointment, announced to Bar members on Tuesday - the day he was officially appointed in Guangdong - was fiercely challenged by pan-democratic barristers. The latter said it constituted a conflict of interest with his position in the independent Bar and asked why members were only informed on the eve of the annual meeting, when it was too late to put forward a contender to his chairmanship.

Mr Yuen said he was approached by the central government's liaison office on December 24 about his interest in joining the CPPCC. He said he had no idea he had been appointed until January 5, when he received a courier package containing a letter that told him to attend the CPPCC meeting on January 15. 'Even the letter did not state directly that I would be appointed. I thought it would be most proper to announce it only on the same day when the appointment was to take place.'

He notified the other 23 members of the Bar Council, which gave him full backing yesterday, of his decision at the January 10 meeting.

Although a mainland newspaper had published the full membership list of the CPPCC on December 29, he said he was not aware of it.

Lawrence Lok Ying-kam SC, to whom Mr Yuen was apprenticed, said he stood by the chairman's decision. 'He is a well-meaning person. He respects the system and follows the rules. If he has to step down because of this incident, it would be a great shame.'

Legislator Ronny Tong Ka-wah said 10 former Bar chairmen, including himself, had written a joint letter asking Mr Yuen to reconsider his acceptance of the mainland post. Mr Tong, who suggested earlier that there were calls for a vote of no-confidence in the chairman, said after yesterday's meeting: 'He chose to stick to his decision. I really cannot think of any solution to the problem right now.'

Another former Bar chief, Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, said yesterday no vote was cast at the meeting to gauge the support for Mr Yuen because they knew the result would only deepen the division in the association.

Johannes Chan Man-mun, dean of the law faculty at the University of Hong Kong, said he had reservations about Mr Yuen's explanation and was concerned that his appointment would affect the image of the Bar.