Hong Kong’s top judge calls on new senior counsel to defend rule of law and ensure equal access to justice for all

Hong Kong’s top judge calls on new senior counsel to defend rule of law and ensure equal access to justice for all

Hong Kong’s top judge has called on the city’s senior barristers to speak out against attacks on the rule of law and ensure equal access to justice, saying their responsibility extends beyond serving as skilled advocates.

Speaking at the admission ceremony for three new senior counsel on Saturday, Chief Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nung said the newly appointed barristers should fulfil their responsibilities to the public, serving both the rule of law and the future of Hong Kong.

“In short, as the most pre-eminent amongst members of the independent Bar, senior counsel must be prepared to uphold the rule of law and ensure the proper administration of justice, speak out against those who would seek to undermine the rule of law [ …] apart from being highly capable and reliable advocates when appearing in court,” Cheung said.

The chief justice made similar calls to members of the judiciary at the opening of the legal year in January, urging judges to stand firm against “illegitimate pressure” and interference when issuing rulings.

A group of American lawmakers are pushing for Cheung, along with 44 other judges and prosecutors, to be added to an existing list of individuals sanctioned over the national security law Beijing imposed in 2020.

Senior Counsel Frances Lok, Benson Tsoi and Queenie Lau at the appointment ceremony. Photo: Yik Yeung-man

Also speaking at the ceremony, Secretary of Justice Paul Lam Ting-kwok echoed the chief justice’s call for senior counsel to serve the public beyond their private practice.

“It carries a legitimate expectation and perhaps a duty that the appointee shall make good use of his or her legal expertise and standing in society to promote and strengthen the rule of law in different ways in addition to his or her own legal practice,” he said.

“A strong and respectable independent Bar is crucial to preserving the rule of law based on our common law system, which is a unique advantage of Hong Kong under the principle of ‘one country, two systems’ that we cannot afford losing,” the minister said, referring to the framework for ties between the city and Beijing.

Barristers Benson Tsoi Yat-ming, Frances Lok Man-yin and Queenie Fiona Lau are the latest to join the ranks of senior counsel.

Frances Lok and Benson Tsoi with their son Sebastian. Photo: Yik Yeung-man

Tsoi of Parkside Chambers is the only criminal law specialist among them. His practice focuses on white-collar crime defence, including money laundering and fraud cases.

Lok of Des Voeux Chambers, who is Tsoi’s wife, leads a commercial practice specialising in company law, construction and arbitration, as well as probate and trusts. Lok and Tsoi have a young son, Sebastian Tsoi Chi-shun, who attended the ceremony.

Queenie Lau with her mother Stella Lau and father James Lau. Photo: Yik Yeung-man

Lau, from Temple Chambers, has a general civil and commercial practice that includes professional negligence cases, defamation and employment disputes. She is also a member of a number of public and statutory bodies.

Lau is the daughter of Stella Lau Kun Lai-kuen, headmistress of the Diocesan Girls’ School, and James Henry Lau, former secretary of the Financial and Treasury Services Bureau.



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