Paul Shieh chosen to lead Hong Kong Bar Association

Election of new chairman comes as some in the legal community point to political pressure

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 January, 2013, 5:06am

Bar Association vice-chairman Paul Shieh Wing-tai SC will take the helm of the 1,000-member professional body from today after being elected as the new leader yesterday.

Speaking after the announcement of the result last night, a "very pleased" Shieh said he would "follow the footprint" of his predecessor Kumar Ramanathan SC in the face of any challenges that might arise for the profession.

Shieh takes over at a time when some in the legal community feel they are facing political pressure. Former justice secretary Elsie Leung Oi-sie criticised the city's judges last year as lacking understanding about the relationship between Hong Kong and the central authorities, and the government has asked the Court of Final Appeal to refer questions about the right of abode to Beijing for clarification.

Asked about the main challenge his successor faced, Ramanathan said: "The bar's role is to look at the issues purely from the legal perspective and provide guidance and assistance to the public, so they are informed of the issues."

Law Society president Dieter Yih Lai-tak said that under Shieh's leadership, "I am sure the society will continue to work well together with the Bar Association to uphold the core values of Hong Kong".

Legal-sector lawmaker Dennis Kwok Wing-hang of the Civic Party said he hoped the new leader would "actively speak out" over any controversies that would undermine the rule of law.

Shieh, a Cambridge law graduate, was called to the bar in 1988 and became senior counsel in 2003.

He is one of three lawyers representing a commission of inquiry in the hearing of the deadly National Day sea collision.

The Bar Association holds annual elections. A chairman is limited to a maximum of three consecutive years.

Ramanathan took over the leadership in 2011 when Russell Coleman SC stepped down after two years.

In a speech on Monday, Ramanathan warned against "political demagoguery" and "special interest groups" undermining the judicial system. He said it was necessary to ensure that judges "can make decisions independent and free from the influence of political winds that may be blowing".