Bar Association chairman vows not to accept CPPCC dual role
Bar Association chairman vows not to accept dual role on mainland's political advisory body
Patsy Moy and Thomas Chan
The new chief of the Bar Association says he will not accept any appointment to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference during his chairmanship - unlike his predecessor and current Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung and Law Society president Dieter Yih Lai-tak.
Speaking to the South China Morning Post, Paul Shieh Wing-tai would not be drawn on whether this was due to any conflict of interest between the two roles.
He would only say that he preferred to devote his time and efforts to the barristers' organisation.
"Besides becoming a CPPCC member, there are many other channels to exchange views with the legal sector in mainland China," Shieh said.
"Given limited time, I have to prioritise my work."
There was consternation among members of the legal community when Yuen accepted an appointment as delegate to the Guangdong provincial CPPCC during his two-year tenure as chairman of the Bar Association in 2008.
But after being named justice secretary last year, he announced he would be standing down from the Guangdong government's advisory body.
About two weeks ago, Yih also accepted an appointment to the Guangdong CPPCC, giving rise to concerns about a conflict of interest with his leadership of the Law Society.
Shieh, who succeeded Kumar Ramanathan as head of the bar Association 11 days ago, said he had nothing against people who did accept a CPPCC seat, nor did he see it as a sign of support for the Communist Party.
The new chairman also promised to maintain the association's long-standing practice of speaking out when the rule of law in Hong Kong was under threat.
"As a professional body, we would not second-guess the motives behind some people who have made certain remarks, nor the acts of the government," Shieh said.
"However, if we find we have a different understanding about such remarks or government acts, the Bar Association, which has a role in the administration of justice, has a duty to make clear our stance."
He added: "We are not necessarily acting against the government. However, if the matters involve public interest and concern legal issues, we are uniquely equipped to make our stance clear and speak out."
The Bar Association holds annual elections, with the chairman allowed to serve a maximum of three consecutive years.