Hong Kong Bar Association to visit Beijing for second year in a row after 5-year break

The Hong Kong Bar Association will visit Beijing again this year to discuss the views of the city’s barristers, with the body’s leader saying mainland Chinese authorities respect its opinions.

Bar Association chairman Victor Dawes told the Post that maintaining close contact with the central government was an important way to help ensure the profession’s voice was heard on the mainland.

“Since [resuming the trip last year], we have made use of opportunities to try to have very frank dialogue and I think it is invaluable,” Dawes said.

Last year’s visit came after a five-year break in what had been regular annual exchanges of views.

“It’s great that the central government, I think, does treasure the views of the legal profession in Hong Kong,” Dawes said.

He added he would “consolidate our thoughts” on the trip to the nation’s capital, which will take place sometime this year.

Dawes has met Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, three times over the past 15 months.

The most recent talks were in February during Xia’s seven-day fact-finding trip to the city. Dawes also had a private meeting with Xia in March last year, before the association’s first trip in five years to Beijing.

The association also met Xia when he visited the city last April.

Dawes said Xia had reassured him that mainland authorities supported the profession, as well as the continued use of the city’s common law system under the “one country, two systems” governing principle.

“The respect for the two different systems, the continued use of common law, and the continued existence of an independent barrister’s profession – there’s no intention to change that,” he added.

“And they do recognise the fact that, on important legal issues, we have a societal role to play and that we speak up.”

Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Xia Baolong, (front, left) with Chief Executive John Lee during his February visit to the city. Photo: Edmond So

The trip to Beijing last year was trumpeted as “ice-breaking” as it marked the association’s first invitation to visit the capital since 2018.

Dawes, however, elected chairman in 2022, denied the trip was evidence of a thaw in the association’s relations with Beijing and insisted the coronavirus crisis was to blame for the halt to its visits to the capital.

Two of Dawes’ predecessors were involved in controversy after their comments on a now-withdrawn 2019 extradition bill, which triggered huge anti-government protests, as well as a string of court cases related to the unrest.

Dawes added there was a growing demand for the Bar Association to teach mainland lawyers about the common law system.

He added companies from the mainland were also keen to resolve disputes in Hong Kong courts and arbitration centres because of barristers’ expertise in dealing with foreign entities.



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