Politics exacts price for lawyer

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 January, 2008, 12:00am

Civic Party legislator and former Bar chairman Ronny Tong Ka-wah yesterday said he had lost 90 per cent of his legal business since he was elected to the Legislative Council and labelled an opposition politician.

In an interview with RTHK, during which he revealed many of his past personal ties with Secretary for Justice Wong Yan-lung and controversial Bar chairman Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, Mr Tong said his workload had fallen to four or five cases a year.

'There was a time when I was rejecting cases. Now I'm down to about four or five cases a year,' he said.

While part of the decline was due to his legislative duties, former clients had made it clear they would not employ his services because they did business on the mainland.

He rejected the idea he had been marginalised, but conceded that the effects on his business would discourage young professionals from getting involved in politics or joining the Civic Party.

'I'm a simple man, with simple pleasures. I don't feel I need a lot of money,' he said, but the case was different for young professionals trying to make a living.

During the interview, Mr Tong revealed how he once had high hopes for Mr Wong and Mr Yuen, and spoke with emotion as he looked back on how his relationship with the two men had changed.

Both Mr Wong and Mr Yuen had helped him improve his Putonghua and were close, almost family friends, he said.

But both Mr Wong and Mr Yuen, in their new capacities of justice minister and Bar chairman, have come under fire from Mr Tong for failing to speak up on constitutional reforms, human rights and the rule of law.

On Mr Wong's performance as justice minister, Mr Tong said: 'I can say that until now, yes, I am very disappointed. I wouldn't say hurt, but I find it very hard to take.'

Asked whether he regretted supporting Mr Wong for the post, Mr Tong paused before saying: 'Before I go that far, I'll have to give [the matter] serious consideration.'

Mr Tong was shocked to learn the Bar chairman would be taking up a post as a member of the Guangdong Provincial Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. 'At first, I didn't believe it, I thought people had got it wrong,' Mr Tong said. After all these years I never got a full understanding of his character.'