The new Bar Association chairman, senior counsel Victor Dawes, said the association will continue to speak out for the city’s rule of law but stressed his group is not a political organisation.
Dawes, the only candidate running for the association’s chairmanship, was elected to replace his predecessor Paul Harris in the body’s annual general meeting on Thursday.
His team members, senior counsels Jose-Antonio Maurellet and Derek Chan, were elected as vice chairmen.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Dawes said the rule of law is the cornerstone of Hong Kong's success and the Bar Association has the duty to promote it.
“Given the challenges we’ve been facing over the past few years, some members of our community may have form a pessimistic view of the rule of law. Some have even carried out disrespectful conduct against judges, the court, and our legal system. In times like this, it is the duty of the bar to promote the rule of law and also to educate the public,” he said.
“We also appreciate that the public rightly expects the bar to speak out on rule of law issues when necessary. And we will of course do our very best in discharging that role.”
But Dawes stressed that his association is a professional body, and it will not deal with political issues.
When asked about the national security law and whether it needs changes as his predecessor suggested, Dawes said he hopes the public can give Hong Kong courts time to interpret the law.
“We’re still in the early days. Some of the cases have now reached our courts. We should definitely give our courts time to interpret the law to allow the cases to be tried under the due process protected by the rights enshrined in our legal system, including the Basic Law and the Bill of Rights. Any ambiguities will be clarified by our courts and I’m confident that our courts will be able to discharge that duty.”
The new chairman also said he hopes the government will carry out sufficient consultation before introducing new national security laws under Article 23 of the Basic Law.