New Bar chair vows security law fight

Local | Maisy Mok and Sophie Hui 22 Jan 2021

New Bar Association chairman Paul Harris said he will do his utmost to persuade the government to modify the national security law in the hope of reinstating Hong Kong's extradition agreements with foreign governments.

The 68-year-old human rights lawyer, who succeeds Philip Dykes, hopes to explore whether there is any chance - although the chance is slim, he admitted - of getting the government to agree to some modifications to the national security law so extradition arrangements can be reinstated.

Since the national security law came into effect last June, various countries - including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Germany - suspended extradition agreements with Hong Kong.

"We should remember that at the moment, a lot of countries have suspended extradition agreements with Hong Kong, which means someone like a murderer can avoid justice by moving from London to Hong Kong or Hong Kong to London," Harris said. "When we get over this terrible Covid epidemic, movement is going to get a lot easier - that is a situation nobody wants."

Harris said he was concerned about provisions in the security law that put officials above the law and empower police to question suspects about their political opinions.

He also found it problematic that people could be sent to the mainland for trial.

"There is also a provision that says there should be no jury trial for national security cases. But the Basic Law says there should be jury trials for serious cases, and national security offenses carries a maximum of life imprisonment," Harris said.

"Some of the clauses have no problem. Some will depend on how the court interprets them, and some of them - in my view - cannot be consistent, and these are the ones that I will do my utmost to persuade the government to modify."

Harris said the public still has confidence in the judicial system, adding that Hong Kong has some very good judges. He also said that he was utterly appalled by attacks on judges that he has seen from certain newspapers recently.

Harris's predecessor, 67-year-old Philip Dykes, stepped down as chairman after three years.

Senior counsel Anita Yip Hau-ki continues to be the association's vice chairwoman, while barrister Erik Shum Sze-man, who previously was a Bar council member, will serve as the other vice chairman.

maisy.mok@singtaonewscorp.com



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