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‘We deal with people, not papers’: top Hong Kong lawyer Lawrence Lok on his passion

In representing clients, court veteran of more than 30 years has stood on both sides of city’s political divide

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 January, 2018, 9:02am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 January, 2018, 9:01am

Regarded as one of the four best Hong Kong barristers in criminal law, Lawrence Lok Ying-kam SC cross-examines witnesses with skill and a razor-sharp mind in court.

Outside the legal world, he can be said to be apolitical, a liberal father who raised his son and daughter with an open mind.

“Do you see any Marxist books on my shelves?” Lok asked during his interview with the Post, pointing to a vast collection of law books in his vintage office. “I subscribe to liberal thinking ... in the sense that I won’t oppose people for drinking and smoking.”

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The court veteran of more than 30 years also identified himself as an “unconventional” father.

“I don’t tell them off for going on dates at a young age,” Lok said with a smile, recalling how he raised his children.

Lok was speaking ahead of his run in the Bar Association election, where he is vying for membership on the body’s governing council.

His team is led by prominent human rights lawyer Philip Dykes SC, who will go up against present chairman Paul Lam Ting-kwok SC.

In a wide-ranging conversation, the 62-year-old talked about his family, his journey into the profession and his interactions with some defendants in the past year’s most politically charged cases.

He said he started out as a criminal lawyer because there were not many on the scene when he first began his career. “Paying rent” was also one of his concerns.

As he climbed up the ladder, Lok built a reputation as a criminal specialist in a field which would become his passion.

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“Because we deal with people. We don’t deal with papers,” he said, referring to his peers in civil law.

“You get to see people’s reactions, be they a police officer, an ICAC officer, a criminal, a rapist or a corrupt person,” he said. “It’s fascinating!”

In February last year, Lok represented one of the seven police officers accused of assaulting pro-democracy activist Ken Tsang Kin-chiu during the 2014 Occupy protest. The case was a political hot potato in a city divided by social tensions.

Lok later represented student activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung over a contempt of court case. Wong, the poster boy for the Occupy movement, pleaded guilty to obstructing bailiff officers during a clearance operation at a protest site in 2014.

Lok described Wong as “passionate”, “outspoken” and “unconventional”. Meanwhile, he recalled that the seven policemen were very “polite”.

As someone who shuns the limelight, Lok nevertheless keeps his finger on the city’s political pulse, and said he could not help but notice that Hong Kong had become very polarised in recent years – a trend he called “very dangerous”.

Citing a jury trial as an example, Lok said if people took up the role of jurors but held to their political beliefs, it might affect the outcome of a verdict.

“Step into other people’s shoes,” he urged Hongkongers.