Legislative Council elections 2016

Legal sector candidate pledges to focus on law, not politics

Catherine Mun Lee-ming, a 43-year-old lawyer, accuses incumbent Dennis Kwok of toeing the party line in recent copyright bill failure, and calls for Hong Kong to promote itself as an international arbitration hub

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 August, 2016, 5:54pm
UPDATED : Monday, 08 August, 2016, 9:26pm

In the second of a two-part series on the scramble for seats in functional constituencies in the Legislative Council elections on September 4, we look at another three key battlefields: architectural, surveying, planning and landscape; legal; and accountancy.

Thousands of voters in each sector will choose their representative on the polling day.

Pan-democratic incumbents in the legal and accountancy sectors face challengers claiming to be independents who want to focus on matters in their respective trades.

In the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape sector, a liberal-minded land policy academic and a prominent architect take on the government-friendly incumbent.

Competition is expected to be fierce among candidates vying for functional constituency seats in this year’s election. With 12 candidates in 10 functional constituencies being returned unopposed, 43 hopefuls will run for seats in 18 trade-based constituencies – four more contested functional constituencies than in the 2012 Legco polls.

A lawyer contesting the functional constituency for the legal sector has pledged to focus on upholding law and rather than politics if elected next month.

Catherine Mun Lee-ming, a first-time runner challenging Civic Party incumbent Dennis Kwok, said protection of the rule of law will be her key focus if elected on September 4.

She stressed however, that the rule of law in the business world was just as important as in other areas of society and that Hong Kong should develop and promote itself as an international arbitration hub for infrastructure projects.

“We have a lot of foreign businesses in Hong Kong. If there is no rule of law, not only will the locals leave, but the foreign businesses may leave also,” Mun, a specialist in commercial and construction-related arbitration and litigation, said.

“There will be no market for lawyers too,” she added.

When asked whether the recent banning of numerous pro-independence advocates from running in next month’s elections threatened the rule of law, Mun said it was not a clear-cut case.

She said the legalities surrounding electoral officers disqualifying candidates was “complicated”.

“Unlike someone’s identity card, which you can objectively ascertain is true or not, whether someone upholds the Basic Law or not isn’t so discernible.”

The 43-year-old solicitor also danced around questions over whether the Electoral Affairs Commission had engaged in “political screening” of candidates.

“Only they know. Maybe they recognised that it was a problem for people start calling for Hong Kong’s independence and they wanted to draw your attention to it with the confirmation form.”

Hong Kong electoral officials have overstepped their boundaries by barring pro-independence candidate

Mun admitted however, that the newly imposed declaration form, which demanded that all candidates pledge to uphold the Basic Law, was “superfluous” and that existing standard declarations serve similar and adequate purposes.

Describing herself as a “moderate”, Mun said she would support restarting the political reform exercise, which failed last year with pan-democrats voting down the government’s proposal after labelling it as “fake universal suffrage”.

The government’s failed political reform package proposed that only two or three candidates could run for chief executive in 2017 and they must win majority support from a 1,200-strong nominating committee.

Mun said she would have voted in favour of the proposal, because she preferred to take “small steps forward”, rather than maintaining the status quo.

On her opponent, Mun said incumbent Dennis Kwok had “his hands tied by his party”.

She said despite both the Bar Association and the Law Society backing the government’s failed Copyright Amendment Bill 2014, Kwok and other pan-democrats debated against it, eventually leading to the bill being shelved in March.

Welcoming the competition in the lead up to next month’s election, Kwok said that there were mixed views among the legal community over the bill.

He said while the two professional bodies wanted Legco to pass the bill, there were voices calling for more liberal amendments, such as the Progressive Lawyers Group.

“What I tried to do was to find a compromise,” Kwok said.

Kwok succeeded his party colleague Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee to the Legco seat in 2012 after beating solicitor and former Law Society president Albert Wong Kwai-huen 2,528 to 1,970 votes. More than 6700 legal sector constituents will vote for the functional constituency seat on September 4.

Five reasons the Hong Kong copyright bill failed

Kwok and the other 29 members of the legal subsector of the Election Committee last week issued a joint statement describing the disqualification of independence activists from next month’s polls as “political screening”.