A former director of public prosecutions, Grenville Cross, said on Friday that it might technically be an offence for lawyers to represent the founders of the Hong Kong National Party (HKNP) in an appeal against the party's ban.
Cross had called in to RTHK's Backchat programme which was debating the Department of Justice's refusal to make it clear where lawyers stand over their involvement in the appeal process under the Societies Ordinance.
Executive councillor Ronny Tong had earlier told the programme that during an appeal against such a decision, a ban order is suspended until the process is over. He said there would therefore be no chance of lawyers being deemed to be breaking the law by assisting the banned group.
But Cross said that under Section 8 of the Societies Ordinance, if the Secretary for Security ordered the ban, this won't be frozen even if an appeal is filed.
He said lawyers providing legal help may therefore be technically breaching the law, but would still be unlikely to face trouble.
Cross said that it was rather surprising that the Department of Justice didn't make it clear to lawyers that they won't be prosecuted if they are only providing legal assistance.
Bar Association head Philip Dykes, who took part in the discussion in his personal capacity as a barrister, said he didn't think lawyers involved in the process would face any sanctions.
He said there is a constitutional right to confidential legal advice and also a right to representation, which are above the ordinance.
A request by HKNP leader Chan Ho-tin that Chief Executive Carrie Lam and eight other Executive Council members recuse themselves from the appeal process was also brought up during the radio discussion.
Tong said he will probably distance himself from any Exco debate as he has made his opinions very clear on this subject. But he said he did not know whether other Exco members would adopt the same stance.