“Amendment to Legal Practitioners Ordinance: Overseas Lawyers and National Security Cases”

2023-05-10 07:12:58

The Legislative Council passed the third reading to amend the Legal Practitioners Ordinance, and overseas lawyers must first obtain a certificate from the Chief Executive to participate in national security law cases. The amendment also added a review mechanism, that is, after the chief executive issued a certificate to overseas lawyers allowing them to participate in national security law cases, the case could still be reviewed.

The Secretary for Justice, Lam Ting-kwok, said that he disagreed with the suggestion that the amendment would undermine the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s ad hoc accreditation system, and emphasized that the SAR government attaches great importance to the professional accreditation system, because the system contributes to the development of Hong Kong’s jurisprudence, but it must be consistent with the maintenance of national security. Constitutional responsibilities have been balanced, and the new mechanism has achieved the most appropriate balance.

He emphasized that most jurisdictions do not have ad hoc accreditation mechanisms, and the amendment does not completely prohibit overseas lawyers from obtaining ad hoc approval in national security cases, nor will it affect criminal, civil and commercial cases that do not involve national security. Applying for the appointment of overseas lawyers by way of ad hoc cases, the mechanism under the amendment is still looser than other jurisdictions.

Regarding the claim that the amendment deprives the parties involved in the litigation of the right to hire a lawyer, Lin Dingguo said that residents of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region have the right to choose a lawyer. Lawyers as legal representatives, excluding overseas lawyers who are not fully qualified to practice in Hong Kong.

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He pointed out that there are currently more than 100 senior counsel and more than 1,500 barristers in Hong Kong, and the parties can choose suitable legal representatives from them. The amendment does not deprive anyone of their legal rights.

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