Move to ban cop-trolling trainee solicitor

Top News | Phoenix Un 22 Aug 2019

A trainee solicitor faces an uncertain future over a Facebook post calling for the death of the families of "bad policemen."

Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah asked the person - who has applied to be admitted to the solicitor's roll - to explain his comments by yesterday.

A hearing for the trainee's admission is set for Saturday, with the Department of Justice asking the applicant to make an "urgent reply" to the query by yesterday's deadline.

It was not known whether he complied.

The department acted on a complaint it received about the would-be solicitor who allegedly posted a message on his Facebook page in Chinese that "whole families of bad policemen should die."

The identity of the writer could not be confirmed.

The department sent a letter to the applicant on Tuesday saying it had received a complaint that his Facebook page contained "foul language and hate speech against the police."

The complainant believed the Facebook comment was improper conduct and was hate speech targeting innocent families of police, the department said in its letter. "In light of the improper conduct, the secretary for justice has been urged to oppose the application for admission," the department added.

It said the applicant should respond to the allegation as it considered the complaint.

Hearings for applications for admission of a solicitor are held in the High Court every Saturday.

A judge consults the department and the Law Society to consider whether an applicant should be admitted as a solicitor.

Under normal circumstances, most applicants pass.

The Legal Practitioners Ordinance states that the court may "admit as a solicitor of the High Court a person who the court considers is a fit and proper person to be a solicitor."

There are 11,000 solicitors in the city.

During the hearing, opinions of the secretary for justice and the Law Society would be weighed to see if there is opposition to an applicant.

Experts said applicants being scrutinized for social media postings were rare, with some describing such a move as "white terror."

University of Hong Kong principal lecturer in law Eric Cheung Tat-ming said there would usually be no disputes in such applications. "The definition of the term 'fit and proper' in the practitioners ordinance is very broad, and I have never heard that an applicant would be considered not fit and proper for posting political opinions," Cheung said.

"The DoJ hasn't officially opposed the application, but it's already white terror by asking the applicant to explain."

Cheung said rejection of admissions should be based on whether he or she has criminal records, not what one has expressed on social media.

"Under such a situation in Hong Kong, both sides of the political spectrum might have said something improper, but it has gone too far if it affects someone's admission as a lawyer."

Legislator Ted Hui Chi-fung agreed "white terror" was being used against the legal sector and urged the department to explain its stance to the public.

Hui said the trainee solicitor in this case was only expressing his stance in the fugitive bill saga, and questioned if the department was intimidating lawyers through administrative means.

He said many trainee solicitors and volunteer lawyers had been providing legal assistance to defendants in anti-fugitive bill protest cases.

"It acts to silence lawyers in public affairs, which is no different from the mainland's suppression of rights lawyers," Hui said.

A spokeswoman for the Law Society replied to The Standard that, as the letter was issued by the department, it would be more appropriate to approach the department directly, and it would not comment on any applications for privacy reasons.

A DoJ spokesman said the department would not comment on individual cases.

According to Legal Practitioners Ordinance, the court may admit the applicant as a solicitor of the High Court when it considers that an applicant is a fit and proper person.

The spokesman also said, in accordance with the Admission and Registration Rules, the secretary for justice has a role in assisting the court to come to a view whether or not an applicant is eligible for admission as a solicitor.

More reports:

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Son of 'abused' man puts more heat on police

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Two HKU vice presidents quit


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