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Hong Kong’s Law Society appoints first female president

Melissa Kaye Pang is set to take the helm of the 110-year-old group, but her stance on many local legal issues remains unclear

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 June, 2018, 7:02am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 June, 2018, 7:02am

The city’s 110-year-old solicitors’ group will be led by a female president for the first time after its top council selected a commercial law expert to take the helm in its annual election.

Melissa Kaye Pang, the lawyer who will lead the Law Society, confirmed to the Post on Tuesday that the professional body would speak out on matters related to the rule of law “at the appropriate time” as former members expressed concerns that her stance on many issues was unclear.

Described by other council members as “moderately conservative”, Pang, a founder of a local law firm, has served the society as vice-president since 2014.

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She is also a member of the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Council, and the chairwoman of the Committee on the Promotion of Civic Education. Both appointments were made during the administration of former chief executive Leung Chun-ying.

While the society’s two former presidents, Dieter Yih Lai-tak and Thomas So Shiu-tsung. accepted offers from the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the country’s top advisory body, during their terms in office, Pang made it clear she did not plan to follow suit.

“I would not consider it and would prefer to focus on the society’s work for the time being,” Pang said in a phone interview with the Post.

Former Law Society council member and human rights lawyer Mark Daly said although he had shared three years on the council with Pang, he did not have a sense of where she stood on many issues.

My hope is that she will stand up for the rule of law, human rights and diversity
Mark Daly, former Law Society council member

“My hope is that she will stand up for the rule of law, human rights and diversity and increased transparency within the Law Society – and I hope to continue to assist in this regard,” he said.

Pang previously joined a petition against the pro-democracy 2014 Occupy movement, but has denied she was pro-establishment.

As well as electing Pang as the society’s chief, the 20 members of the professional body’s council also made a decision to break the tradition of having two vice-presidents and instead have three, amid an intense competition between the candidates.

It is understood that the three candidates are council member Brian Gilchrist, Amirali Nasir and Chan Chak-ming. The council will vote to decide on their appointments later this month.

Pang denied the decision to have one more deputy was to resolve internal conflicts arising from competition within the council.

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Instead, she said it was out of a practical need, especially at a time when society was planning to increase links with the nine mainland cities and Macau in the Greater Bay Area.

“Our article of association allows two or three presidents,” Pang added. “In 2004 to 2007 we also had three vice presidents.”

The voting of the president follows the reshuffle of the council on June 1, when conservative candidates bagged almost all of the five contested seats with the election fuelled mostly by proxy votes.