• Thu
  • Sep 18, 2014
  • Updated: 2:11pm
NewsHong Kong

Law Society's Ambrose Lam refuses to weigh in on chief executive debate

President refuses to comment on 2017 chief executive debate, describing the question of a cap on candidates as a 'political wrestling match'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 May, 2014, 3:47am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 May, 2014, 4:54pm

The solicitors' professional body is staying silent on two key questions of political reform on which barristers have already stated their position.

Law Society president Ambrose Lam San-keung yesterday refused to comment on public recommendation - a process by which the public could put forward non-binding recommendations for 2017 chief executive candidates. He also described the question of a cap on the number of candidates as "a political wrestling match which I do not want to weigh into", adding: "I do not want to make a comment on the number."

This is despite a poll by the society that found a majority of members did not want a limit on the number of candidates.

Lam made his comments while elaborating on the reform submission made by the city's largest lawyers' group to the government last week.

The Law Society and the Bar Association have both said nomination of candidates by voters or political parties - so-called public nomination - would not comply with the Basic Law.

But the Bar Association said public recommendation was possible as long as the official nominating committee had the final say.

It also said in its reform submission that capping the number of candidates would "infringe the authority and liberty" of the nominating committee.

In the Law Society's poll last month, 63.7 per cent of more than 690 respondents said there should not be any cap on the number of candidates. In comparison 18.8 per cent said a cap of "three to four" should be applied, while 17.5 per cent had no opinion on the matter.

Yesterday, Lam admitted the notion of "love the country, love Hong Kong" - cited by Beijing as a criterion for chief executive - was "literally absent" from the constitutional text and there was no clear mechanism to judge patriotism. "It is arguable whether patriotism constitutes a reasonable restriction on candidacy," Lam said. "But it is difficult to judge who complies with the notion. What is the mechanism to determine if an individual loves the country and Hong Kong?"

While the Bar Association said it might be unconstitutional to form the future nominating committee based on the current four-sector line-up of the 1,193-member Election Committee, the Law Society has said: "The nominating committee may be formed with reference to the existing Election Committee, but there should not be any mandatory obligation to strictly adopt the same provisions."

Meanwhile, Beijing-friendly group New Forum, which is led by lawmaker Ma Fung-kwok, suggests forming a 1,500-member nominating committee to include 300 members from a random ballot to allow greater public participation.

Writing in state organ the Global Times, former political assistant for development Henry Ho Kin-chung - now a visiting scholar at Tsinghua University - questioned whether the issues of public nomination and "genuine or fake universal suffrage" were deliberately being pushed as part of the debate to "tear the relationship between Hong Kong and the central government".

The government consultation ended on Saturday.



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This article is now closed to comments

Just an idea. A portion of the Legco is elected by the people and a portion appointed by functional constituencies. Why not just let the elected members of the Legco be the nominating committee. The functional constituency bit is quite absurd in that it gives certain HK people 2 votes because they are the member of the bar or own a specific type of business. WE saw with the choice of the current "leader" that many of those functional constituency groups were looking to Beijing to tell them how to vote. So cut them out of the equation and let the elected officials serve as the nominating committee and if the people do not like the job they do, the people can vote them out of office.
Good article, thank you Tanna Chong !
This report leaves out the President's refusal to provide an English translation of his comments on Beijing's requirement to 'love the country, love Hong Kong' as reported by ATV news last night. His attitude was a complete disgrace. He is an embarrassment. Does he intend to stand for re-election at this month's AGM - if so then the prestige of the Law Society of Hong Kong can only deteriorate with this arrogant and ignorant man as it's spokesperson!
I think it's acceptable to limit a press conference to Chinese language, provided that it is made clear to invited media ahead of the event that English will not be used. To invite English-language media, and then to refuse to respond to questions in that language will not, in my experience, do much to endear you with the media, who have probably schlepped half way across town and been kept waiting for ages. Clearly Lam entered the room with no intention of responding to questions in English. This intention should have been made clear on the media invitation. Kudos to ATV for running the non-answer in their news bulletin. I doubt Mr Lam will have been bothered to watch it, but if he has then I hope he is hanging his head in shame at the damage he has wrought on the perception among laymen of those in the legal profession. To say nothing of failing to get his message across by relying on a reporter to translate.
In 1993 Lam was admitted to practice in England and Wales, as well as in Singapore. Only 5 years later was he admitted to the Law Society in Hong Kong. So having studied law, and sat and passed all his qualifying exams in English, why would he be so reluctant to respond in a language in which he is clearly very fluent. Perhaps he wants to make the point that in modern-day Hong Kong, it is not necessary to demonstrate a keen understanding of the English language in order to pursue a career in law. Or maybe he's just reluctant to highlight his incompetence.


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