LAW Society president Roderick Woo Bun last night adjourned what promised to be a fiery test of the society council's stance on the Court of Final Appeal Bill after more than 800 solicitors tried to get into an extraordinary general meeting at a Central hotel. Mr Woo called off the meeting at about 7 pm - an hour after it started - while hundreds of members were still queuing to register at the Jasmine Room of the Mandarin Oriental. Members emerging from the closed-door session claimed Mr Woo said the meeting had to be adjourned because hotel staff warned that the number of people in the room exceeded the capacity stipulated in fire regulations. It was also claimed he fended off a suggestion by a solicitor, John Chan, for a vote on the postponement, declaring that the meeting had already been adjourned when Mr Chan lodged his request. However, the hotel's public relations manager, Carrie Kwan Yuk-ching, said it was a private function and the organiser had not been asked to stop the meeting. She said the hotel had never said fire regulations were a problem. 'We simply told them the room had already reached its capacity and could not accommodate all those waiting outside,' she said. Mr Woo later said the decision to postpone the vote had nothing to do with fire regulations. Rather, anything arising from the meeting would have been considered null and void if members could not go in, he said. He denied the meeting had been mishandled, saying that the council had only 14 days to organise it. Because of Christmas, this was the biggest function room available in Central, he said. 'Maybe next time we should hold the meeting at the Hong Kong Stadium or City Hall,' he said, noting that the previous extraordinary general meeting only saw 200 members attend. Asked if his decision was prompted by the fact he knew the council's motions to accept the draft bill would probably be defeated, he said: 'I am not aware of anyone counting votes.' The meeting was called by a group of liberal solicitors who were outraged by the council decision to support the government bill at a meeting last month. Legal Department officials held a meeting with Government Crown counsel on Monday night to help them 'understand the Government position' on the Court of Final Appeal. However, it was alleged that counsel were told they would have to resign if they voted against the bill. Acting Attorney-General Ian Wingfield confirmed last night the Government had explained its position to the Crown counsel. But he maintained they had no obligation to attend the meeting or support the bill. Mr Wingfield said they had only launched 'normal lobbying' for support from solicitors on the bill. It was 'nonsense' to suggest counsel were told that they would have to resign if they opposed the Government bill, he said. A senior government official said: 'Certainly we hope that they would support the Government bill . . . but there will not be any disciplinary action being taken [if they fail to do so].' A Legal Department spokesman said Solicitor-General Daniel Fung had briefed a group of more than 20 Crown counsel on Monday. 'They were given the argument of both sides in order to help them reach their own personal decision,' the spokesman said. He said Mr Fung had not expressed hope that they would support the bill and that there was no question of telling them how to vote or giving disciplinary action. Instead, Mr Fung has told government lawyers, who might want to resign because they voted against the bill, not to take such action, the spokesman said. Solicitor Albert Ho Chun-yan said it would be 'terrible' if the Government dictated to civil servants on how to vote. Director of Administration Richard Hoare said he would contact Mr Woo soon to seek comment on the technical points of the bill so that they could start considering it without having to wait for the outcome of the meeting. Solicitor Daniel Wong Kwok-tung, who has been working to avert the council decision, blasted the executive body for wasting the time and effort of lawyers. He said lawyers were concerned about the issue and the council should not have chosen a small venue for the meeting. Mr Ho, a Democratic Party leader, queried why the ballots had members' names on them. 'Never before did that happen. It is not acceptable . . . the bosses and partners of law firms will know how the others voted,' he said. Mr Woo claimed that he did not know beforehand that the ballots had members' names. The preparation of the ballots and vote counting was commissioned to a private company, Central Registration (HK) Ltd. He believed the ballots would be kept and destroyed by Central Registration after votes were counted. He said the society's articles of association did not specify ballots had to be secret in extraordinary general meetings. Secretary-general of the society Patrick Moss said members' worries were unfounded. 'The Law Society has nothing to do with the counting of votes . . . as far as the Law Society is concerned, the vote is secret. 'The society is not going to do any witch-hunt to see who has voted for what. It is not worth the time and effort,' Mr Moss said. He said that in previous Law Society council elections, members signed the ballots and there had not been any objections.