The new Law Society president says he will keep a low profile as a way to re-establish the organisation's standing after his predecessor was forced to step down following a vote of no confidence.
"I am not keen on politics and I have no expertise in constitutional law," said Stephen Hung Wan-shun, a criminal lawyer, in an interview with the South China Morning Post last week.
Hung spoke a week after being elected president to replace Ambrose Lam San-keung, who resigned on August 19 after an overwhelming vote of no-confidence at an extraordinary general meeting, following his controversial remarks about Beijing's white paper on Hong Kong.
While the paper was widely seen as a threat to judicial independence, Lam, without informing the Law Society, said that he supported the views stated in the document.
"I learned a lot from the EGM," said Hung, who declined to comment on Lam's stance. "I will be willing to hear from any members on matters that are conducive to the proper running of the Law Society.
"Lawyers are like Hong Kong people, many of whom are the silent majority. But this does not mean they don't care about judicial independence," he said, noting the wide margin by which the vote was passed against Lam.
The no-confidence motion won the support of 2,392 society members with 1,478 against.
Hung maintained that the Law Society was politically neutral and a professional organisation more concerned with regulation of the trade and members' welfare than politics. He said an increase in criminal legal aid fees to catch up with what the government pays civil lawyers would be one of the issues on his agenda.
Hung, 54, studied psychology and criminology for his first degree in Canada. He worked as a liaison officer in the Duty Lawyer Scheme before studying law and becoming a solicitor. As a trainee he worked in Hong Kong's longest criminal trial - a case of 13 Vietnamese refugees charged with murder for setting fire to their camp and causing deaths.
Hung said he enjoyed advocacy in court more than instructing counsel to do it because he liked talking. "Civil lawyers are more hard working than criminal lawyers, at least me. I enjoy hearing what witnesses say and improvise," he joked.
Admitting he had no expertise in constitutional matters, he hesitated to give an answer when asked what he thought about Beijing's decision on reforming the rules for the chief executive election in 2017. "What we've said is the nominating committee should be expanded. I won't comment on whether the nominating threshold should be 50 per cent or less, or how many people should form the committee."
While some politicians like to speak or act in a "personal capacity" separate from their affiliations, Hung said he would not do so.
"You can't really distinguish a personal capacity from the president's capacity. That's impossible," Hung said, adding that he would seek advice from the society's council before speaking up.
He currently sits on the Higher Rights Assessment Board that vets solicitors' applications for the right to represent clients in the High Court. He is also a member of a Law Reform Commission subcommittee on offences relating to child abuse in the home.