HKFP Opinion Piece: The Hong Kong Bar Association’s endangered reputation, and the seven-year itch

“The question which… arises is how long and how far the effort by the government and its fans to dig up legal brickbats they can throw at retired democratic politicians will go,” writes Tim Hamlett after the Bar censured democrat Tanya Chan.

Tanya Chan, former legislator and former barrister, has been censured by the disciplinary committee of the Bar Association for “bringing the profession into disrepute” in two speeches made in 2014 to pro-democracy Umbrella Movement protesters. That is a long time ago. Over the proceedings hangs a familiar smell.

Many will find it surprising that the Bar Association seems to have overlooked a worrying possibility: that any harm to the profession’s repute accruing from Ms Chan’s oratorical indiscretions will be outweighed by the harm caused by the appearance that this is a voluntary contribution to the government’s efforts to throw any legal brick it can get its hands on at anyone who – in the dim and distant days when Hongkongers thought they could say what they liked – called for more democracy.

We all understand that legal proceedings — especially those involving any kind of prosecution – move very slowly. Consequently, it may well be that lawyers have a different sense of time from the rest of us. Even so, the anonymous complainant – in this case – seems to have been extremely dilatory.

The speeches complained of were made in 2014. No prosecution ensued until 2017. In the meantime, a complaint could have been made, and was not. Ms Chan and others were then charged with variations of incitement to commit a public nuisance. The matter thus became sub judice, so a complaint would no doubt have been postponed anyway. In 2019, however, verdicts were returned and the matter became discussable again, although Ms Chan was not sentenced until the following year for medical reasons.

Read more at 

The Hong Kong Bar Association’s endangered reputation, and the seven-year itch