Bar chief tries to calm critics of CPPCC post

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 January, 2008, 12:00am

Bar Association chairman Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, who accepted a controversial appointment as a Guangdong government adviser this week, urged his members yesterday not to let their differences turn into 'the enemy of our common goal'.

In his second statement this week, Mr Yuen, 44, reassured barristers and the public that he would not compromise his role as the Bar chairman because of his appointment on Tuesday as a member of the Guangdong Provincial Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

He said he treasured and respected all the views expressed on his political appointment during the Bar's annual general meeting on Thursday, which lasted more than three hours as barristers from the pan-democratic camp - including many former Bar chairmen - challenged his decision.

'In any body or community, difference in opinion is a fact of life and a wholesome situation. All democratic societies should allow and embrace different opinions. The important point to bear in mind is not to allow bona fide differences of opinion to become the enemy of our common goal, viz, the maintenance of the rule of law,' Mr Yuen wrote.

'Members of the Hong Kong Bar Association will no doubt unanimously agree that we shall continue to stand united, as we did in the past, to defend the rule of law.'

Countering criticisms that he rarely spoke out to defend the rule of law, Mr Yuen listed issues in which the Bar had expressed its views in the past year. They included the shortcomings in the Race Discrimination Bill; the need to have a truly independent legal aid body; election methods for the chief executive and the Legislative Council; and the need to have an independent and accountable police complaints system.

Ronny Tong Ka-wah, former Bar chairman and a member of the Civic Party, said the impact of making submissions to the Legislative Council was far less than speaking out on occasions such as the opening of the legal year. He had criticised Mr Yuen for ignoring major constitutional issues in his legal year opening speech on Monday.