• Sun
  • Dec 28, 2014
  • Updated: 4:53pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 August, 2014, 4:45am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 August, 2014, 4:45am

Hong Kong Law Society president Ambrose Lam falls on own sword

The overwhelming vote of no confidence last week against Ambrose Lam San-keung made his resignation yesterday as Law Society president inevitable. When you have such a large number of your constituents turning against you, there is no other viable option than to leave. The unprecedented no-confidence motion won the support of 2,392 society members with 1,478 against.

However, this does not mean Lam was necessarily wrong. What landed him in hot water was the statement he made on June 16 in support of the white paper issued by the State Council on Hong Kong's "one country, two systems". He characterised the controversial paper as a "positive" document that reiterated Hong Kong's judicial independence and autonomy. That was exactly the opposite conclusion of most but not all pan-democrats and many local lawyers. The Bar Association took a more nuanced view, but on balance concluded that the paper was more of a threat to, than a defence of, those principles.

By making his stance known, Lam made it the official position of the society before its council had time to draw up a considered response to the paper. Clearly that was unwise and arrogant of him. For this, he has now paid a heavy price. But was the paper really such a threat as its critics have alleged?

Experts as politically diverse as Basic Law Institute chairman Alan Hoo, SC; Chatham House senior consulting fellow and former British diplomat Tim Summers; and associate law professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting, who is co-founder of Occupy Central, have all agreed there was nothing really new in the paper, which summed up Beijing's long-standing position. Lawyers are trained to argue both sides. And indeed, you can argue with equal palpability that the white paper is a new threat to Hong Kong or that it's just old hat.

Are judges "administrators" like government officials and subject to Beijing's influence, or do they only "run" an independent branch of government within the Special Administrative Region? As patriots, do top judges have to love China and the Communist Party or merely have to uphold "one country, two systems", including the city's common law tradition?

In our toxic politics, partisans are not interested in nuances. They want blood. Now, Lam has fallen on his own sword.


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Ambrose Lam lost the vote of no confidence because he was politicizing the Law Society. There had been a series of incidents, culminating with his pronouncements on the White Paper, which was simply the final straw. The list of his misdeeds have been recorded fully and clearly indicate that he had his own agenda, was intent on using the Law Society to further his own future and he regrettably became the story. Nobody was 'after his blood'. Your focus on the White Paper gives a distorted view.
The Law Society in its press release confirmed it is an apolitical organisation - it had to do this because solicitors had had enough of his embarrassing behaviour.
Nobody knew if he would resign as he had stated in an interview with a Mainland newspaper over the week-end that it was not a forgone conclusion that he would step down. Hopefully, the Law Society will change its Memorandum of Articles to require a President to step down if he or she loses a vote of no confidence. The delay between the outcome of the vote and the announcement of resignation was far too long. Lam fell on his own sword because the support he had in Council evaporated with the vote - he should have resign immediately last Thursday.
Please Mr Lo no crocodile tears for Ambrose Lam; he fully deserved the ignomy of being the first President to face a vote of no confidence and to lose it by such a huge margin as he has nobody else to blame except himself.
Even we do not look at what the content of his statement about the white paper, there are two fatal issues that cause his downfall:
To make comments on the white paper, which is considered to be important matter, he should get the understanding from the Law Society. He has the freedom of speech to express himself but not as a representative of the Society in the matter. Together with the content of his comment, this led to the initiation of the vote.
The week before the vote, there could be seen a power machine working on his behalf from the CCP. He was then seen have a master in the central government and the Law Society was seen to be influenced by the central government and becomes obviously no longer impartial. Members find this unacceptable to the outlook of the Society.
Fortunately, we still have that spirit that left from the British colonial period. Members did come out and fight.
God bless to the land I had called home for half of my life.
True. For certain positions at some professional societies, it is better to be above the politics and just focus on its own trades. If Ambrose Lam just kept his mouth shut, he would still be the President.
Ambrose Lam "Hoist on his own Petard" - from "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare
johnyuan obviously don't know much about HK or British law. the law system that HK law operates on is an ever evolving legal jurisprudence and that's her strength. the common law as applied in HK and much of the British Commonwealh draws from legal precedence and legal wisdom accumulated over hundreds of years of deliberation and evolution. it is not static but dynamic and most relevant.
some laws are governed by statutues enacted by the HK legislature and it's up to the legislative body to amend or repeal those laws or enact new ones. it's got nothing to do with the colonial masters or historical past but today's HK lawmakers and citizens themselves.
whereas the rule of law in PRC is still in its infancy
In a rule of law society the law is paramount, not patriotism. Moreover, the government is subject to and constrained by the law. Love of country is following and upholding the law - not the political regime sitting in power.
The commentary makes it sound like Lam's mistake was just one of personal style when it appeared to be much more than that: it appeared to be represent the Party's practice of democratic centralism where the top tells those below what their position is and they then accept and parrot it. Lam is no martyr. Rather than fall on a sword he walked off a cliff.
Hong Kong still practices law of British colonial’s time. The unfortunate thing is that Hong Kong practices it but don’t innovate it with the moving of time as the British or any place does. I always see Hong Kong suffers a Chinatown syndrome that embraces firmly all things from where its people originally came from without knowing they were the only one remaining unchanged.
I hope the government will have the building laws a complete review. Expunge those laws that set even before WWII in Britain that no longer make sense of new scientific discoveries. Building laws aren’t just for the benefit to the clerks to administer but more for the advancement of our society.
hard times !
Shame on this old guy Ambrose Lam who embraced the notorious White Paper which states that the power of Hong Kong is subjected to Beijing authorities and our judges should be patriotic and not just be the servants of the law ! The downfall of this shameless old guy is destined and proper.He better goes across the border at Lowu to make big bucks in Shenzhen as he does not treasures the'rule of law' practised in the terrority ! Then let him enjoy the 'ruled by law' in Mainland China ! Right ?
AL’s well-argued commentary mis-concluded in a misapplied adage
Lam has brought constructive insights and no sword to the forum
He could have helped HK law evolve from its colonial bondage
and set it on a fair, dignified and developable course
His fate is what’s expected of the proverbial prophet
in a post-colonial environment dominated by DB’s followers’ problem
Opium war’s final stage is now fought in the psycho-mental arena
The legal profession has most of the worst addicts
Re: Teenager 'wore Japanese kendo mask while friend stabbed his father to death'
8人稱英語差拒陪審 官斥可恥
What’s really shameful, unjust, and perverse
is the fact that neither prosecutor D Crebbin nor judge Line
nor the juries, nor the witnesses nor defendants
could conduct the proceedings in a common language
through which they perceive and interact with society
If related linguistic issues are solvable by translation
why not translate the whole legal system
or proceed in the court majority’s language
and translate for the foreign prosecutor and judge?
Neotenic ALi is pampered and shortsighted
Foolishly he has thwarted the natural development of HK law
However much or little johnyuan knows about HK’s colonial law
he’s right about what he calls the Chinatown syndrome
a thoughtful opinion in contrast with your
pedestrian, superficial and misguided platitude
Centuries since a duke from France
where Civil Law has been always the chosen legal system
instituted common law as a system of control in england
the english still don’t have a written constitution
The English only learnt in early 21th century
to implement some institutional separation of powers
Through the centuries, english law has been a delusion
precedents hanging on conventions lacking a substantive form
That may be what’s mistaken as common law dynamism
copycat common law worshipers grovel
before english parliament’s transfiguration of the three powers




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