Law Society's motion of no confidence a poor example of conflict resolution

Sandy Rie is disappointed at how differences in opinion within the Law Society have escalated into a vote of no confidence against the president

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 August, 2014, 5:44pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 August, 2014, 3:16am

On Thursday, Law Society president Ambrose Lam San-keung will face a motion of no confidence, the first such motion in the society's history. As he put it in a letter to solicitors dated August 5, "no other president before me has faced anything similar to what awaits me on August 14 when the EGM is to be held".

While there are two other resolutions to be considered at the extraordinary general meeting, all eyes will be on whether Lam will be fired for his controversial comments in support of the State Council's white paper on "one country, two systems".

In the past weeks, I have received emails from fellow solicitors weighing in on why Lam should or should not be fired. The general consensus is that he is entitled to his personal opinion but that he should not have said that his views represented those of the Law Society.

The key question is, was what he did so wrong that he deserves to be fired? We all know that everyone makes mistakes, so how bad does the mistake have to be to justify punishing that person?

Whatever the decision, this vote has made me reflect on my own gradual desensitisation to political drama and its consequences. The Hong Kong media is so over-saturated with scandalous stories of lies and betrayal that Lam's current troubles perhaps pale in comparison. Has our increased threshold for shock value also increased our appetite for drama? More importantly, have our values of compassion and forgiveness as a society been diluted as a result?

I believe Lam has been an unfortunate victim of mild demonisation, like so many others before him. To some people, he has become the personification of evil that we have to unite and "fight" against.

I am saddened to see that dialogue on the white paper has escalated to an unprecedented EGM and a moral division among members of the Law Society. We young lawyers look up to senior members and the committee as leaders of the legal profession, to guide us on the right way to resolve conflicts. Haven't we been publicly promoting the use of mediation to achieve win-win solutions? Are we practising what we preach?

It is my wish to see a more compassionate and cooperative society in Hong Kong. To be sure, I believe Kevin Yam, the initiator of the no-confidence motion, has all the right intentions in proposing it. Both he and I would like to defend our core values, but have different ideas of how it can be done.

My vision of Hong Kong is one where the definition of democracy does not merely mean "one person, one vote" but also an attitude to understand and respect those with different views, and respect for open dialogue free of aggression and attacks.

In the event that Lam is fired, I hope that those who are against him feel that he is sufficiently punished and do not seek to ostracise him, for the good of the Law Society. In the event that Lam is not fired, I hope that he and Yam could sit together and discuss their differences face to face.

Whichever way the vote goes, I wish for the leadership of the Law Society to lead by example and encourage a more cooperative society in our beloved Hong Kong.

Sandy Rie is a registered foreign lawyer practising in Hong Kong