'What harm was done?' Paul Tse asks in seeking to overturn $130,000 penalty Maverick solicitor Paul Tse Wai-chun yesterday launched an appeal over a $130,000 disciplinary fine imposed on him for a stunt in which he stripped down to his underwear in Central. On March 1, 2001, Mr Tse stepped out of his black suit and polka-dot bow tie and paraded around Central in his briefs before he entered a closed-door Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal hearing. The Court of Appeal yesterday heard Mr Tse was appealing against the fine imposed by the tribunal in September last year for his near-naked protest as well as his distribution of a circular inviting solicitors to attend the tribunal hearing. Mr Tse's counsel, Johnny Mok Shiu-luen, told Mr Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li, Mr Justice Woo Kwok-hing and Mr Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nang, that the tribunal was dealing with a form of protest. 'The tribunal may take exception to this form of protest but we must ask ... 'What harm has been done?'' he said. 'And what ... has it done to undermine the standing and reputation of the profession?' Mr Mok said the tribunal had not applied the right test in concluding his client's actions had embarrassed the profession. 'We are dealing with the principle of open justice here, and the principle is that the public should not be excluded,' he said. He also said there was nothing wrong in the circular Mr Tse distributed to other members of the profession as it was merely inviting them to share their views on his moves for a public hearing. Mr Mok also argued interested members of the profession should be allowed to address the tribunal on whether they should have been allowed to attend Mr Tse's hearing. He said the disciplinary sanction for the circular 'was unduly harsh on a number of grounds'. Counsel representing the Law Society, Paul Carolan, said the tribunal had lawfully exercised its powers to investigate matters of fact and law. Mr Carolan described the financial penalty imposed on Mr Tse as 'not insubstantial but not a huge sum'. He said the issue was 'unprofessional conduct' as opposed to 'serious professional misconduct', and was worthy of some penalty. The Court of Appeal reserved its decision. The disciplinary tribunal was convened to hear complaints made between October 1997 and February 1999 over Mr Tse's alleged misconduct in the promotion of his practice. Mr Tse was also criticised after he posed near-nude on the cover of Next Magazine in 1999, and for a 1998 interview in which he nodded as his spokeswoman and girlfriend, Pamela Pak Wan-kam , described lawyers as 'vampires' and 'bloodsuckers'. Mr Tse has had several legal clashes with the Law Society over its refusal to allow public hearings of the disciplinary tribunal. In September 2002, the Court of Appeal dashed his attempts. It ruled the section of the Legal Practitioners Ordinance that allowed for the hearings to be heard in secret did not contravene the relevant provisions of the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, nor the Bill of Rights.