The head of the Hong Kong Bar Association (HKBA) has said the city should not implement a complete ban on overseas barristers participating in national security law cases.
His comment came after the government said it would amend the Legal Practitioners Ordinance in light of Beijing’s recent interpretation of the national security law.
Chief Executive John Lee invited China’s top law-making body to intervene after government lawyers failed to block King’s Counsel Timothy Owen from representing media mogul Jimmy Lai in Lai’s high-profile national security case.
Beijing then confirmed that the power to decide whether an overseas counsel could be employed for security law cases lay in the hands of the chief executive and the Committee for Safeguarding National Security.
Meeting the press after being re-elected as chairperson of the HKBA on Thursday evening, Victor Dawes said the barrister group did not believe there had to be a “complete ban” on overseas counsels in all security cases for either the prosecution or the defence.
He said authorities should preserve flexibility for both sides in picking legal representatives in cases that did not involve confidential matters or state secrets. “This is in line with other non-NSL cases,” Dawes said.
“In so far as public perception is concerned, we believe that it will be conducive to the administration of justice and the rule of law,” he added.
“After discussion, we think a complete ban is not what we will be happy to see.”
The chairperson said the barrister group would file its formal suggestions when a concrete proposal on the upcoming amendment is announced.