Hong Kong News

Nonpartisan, Noncommercial, unconstrained.
Monday, Mar 04, 2024

Hong Kong lawyers taking on government cases asked to observe national security law

Hong Kong lawyers taking on government cases asked to observe national security law

Legal practitioners also asked to keep private any information they receive while serving as the government’s counsel.

Private practice lawyers who prosecute cases on behalf of the Hong Kong government have been asked to sign a new form to confirm their role in safeguarding national security, among other conditions.

In a letter issued on Monday, the Department of Justice asked barristers on the government’s briefing-out list who took up prosecution cases to indicate if they would comply with the new conditions in two weeks.

Seen by the Post, the letter by deputy director of public prosecutions William Tam Yiu-ho said the move was to ensure “the highest standard of professional performance” by the fiat counsel.


The Department of Justice asked barristers who take up government prosecution cases to indicate if they will comply with the new conditions in two weeks.

The letter highlighted Article 6 of the Beijing-imposed national security law and asked those on the list to “duly observe” the legislation, and that they “must not directly or indirectly in any way engage in any act or activities which may be regarded on reasonable grounds based on its nature as contrary to the interest of national security”.

Article 6 states that any institution, organisation or individual in Hong Kong must abide by the law and not engage in any act or activity which endangers national security.

The same article also requires all public officers and those standing for election to take an oath to uphold the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, and swear allegiance to Hong Kong.

In the department’s letter, lawyers were also asked to keep private any information or instructions they received while serving as the government’s counsel, warning that failure to do so could amount to a breach of the Official Secrets Ordinance. They were also told to ensure they had no conflicts of interest in cases assigned to them.

The legal practitioners are expected to sign and return a copy of the letter by December 5 to confirm that they had agreed to the conditions.

The document did not mention any consequences for failure to comply with the rules, but it asked those who chose not to continue working for the government “due to any reasons” to let the department know as soon as possible.

It is a common practice for the department to outsource certain criminal and civil cases to legal practitioners in private practice.

In general, the department hires such practitioners if they need expert assistance for complex cases, or when there is no suitable in-house counsel to appear in court. Outside counsel is also hired to address possible perceptions of bias or conflicts of interest in some cases.

The letter highlighted Article 6 of the Beijing-imposed national security law and asked legal practitioners to “duly observe” the legislation.


All legal practitioners can apply to be on the government’s briefing-out list, which comprises mostly barristers.

In the 2020-21 financial year, the department spent a total of about HK$278 million (US$35.5 million) on briefing-out expenses.

Among the high-profile prosecutions outsourced by the government in the past was a case involving former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, who was found guilty of misconduct for failing to disclose a lease while in office.

Tsang was eventually cleared of criminal misconduct by the city’s top court in 2019. The government also outsourced its bid to unseat six opposition lawmakers over their improper oath-taking in 2016.

In a reply to the Post, a spokesman for the Department of Justice confirmed that it had written to the briefed-out counsel about the new conditions.

“In order to ensure the professional performance of the fiat counsel, we have been issuing letters to remind them and reiterate that they should act like public prosecutors and should avoid conflict of interest, observe confidentiality requirements and the provisions of the national security law,” he said.

The spokesman added that there was an established mechanism to monitor and assess the fiat counsel’s performance, and it would follow the procedure to handle cases involving a breach of conditions.

Following the introduction of the national security law in 2020, civil servants have been required to sign a declaration to swear allegiance to Hong Kong. Some critics have said the move could hit morale.

Separately, in a meeting of the Legislative Council’s panel on public service, lawmakers expressed concerns over an increasing trend of civil servants quitting their jobs in recent years.

Papers tabled at the meeting by the Civil Service Bureau showed that the resignation rate for such workers rose from 0.8 per cent in the 2017-18 financial year, to 2.1 per cent in 2021-22.

According to a separate study conducted by the Legislative Council Secretariat in August, the number of civil servants who resigned increased from 625 in 2010-11, to 1,052 in 2016-17, and reached 1,863 in 2020-21, while about 3,743 people left their positions in 2021-22.

Secretary for the Civil Service Ingrid Yeung Ho Poi-yan said she acknowledged the upward trend in resignations, but maintained it was not necessarily a negative sign.

“There are many reasons for civil servants to resign, including family reasons, pursuing further studies, or taking up other jobs in the private market,” Yeung said.

“Although the departure of civil servants due to resignations has risen moderately in recent years, they have not affected the operation of the government much.”

She also attributed the rise partly to the tightened monitoring of civil servants’ work performance in recent years, citing figures that some 40 per cent of those who quit in 2021-22 had left before they had passed probation.

“It is not necessarily a bad thing,” Yeung said. “If we keep underperforming staff, it is not conducive to the long-term development of the civil service.”

Newsletter

Related Articles

Hong Kong News
0:00
0:00
Close
It's always the people with the dirty hands pointing their fingers
Paper straws found to contain long-lasting and potentially toxic chemicals - study
FTX's Bankman-Fried headed for jail after judge revokes bail
Blackrock gets half a trillion dollar deal to rebuild Ukraine
Steve Jobs' Son Launches Venture Capital Firm With $200 Million For Cancer Treatments
Google reshuffles Assistant unit, lays off some staffers, to 'supercharge' products with A.I.
End of Viagra? FDA approved a gel against erectile dysfunction
UK sanctions Russians judges over dual British national Kara-Murza's trial
US restricts visa-free travel for Hungarian passport holders because of security concerns
America's First New Nuclear Reactor in Nearly Seven Years Begins Operations
Southeast Asia moves closer to economic unity with new regional payments system
Political leader from South Africa, Julius Malema, led violent racist chants at a massive rally on Saturday
Today Hunter Biden’s best friend and business associate, Devon Archer, testified that Joe Biden met in Georgetown with Russian Moscow Mayor's Wife Yelena Baturina who later paid Hunter Biden $3.5 million in so called “consulting fees”
'I am not your servant': IndiGo crew member, passenger get into row over airline meal
Singapore Carries Out First Execution of a Woman in Two Decades Amid Capital Punishment Debate
Spanish Citizenship Granted to Iranian chess player who removed hijab
US Senate Republican Mitch McConnell freezes up, leaves press conference
Speaker McCarthy says the United States House of Representatives is getting ready to impeach Joe Biden.
San Francisco car crash
This camera man is a genius
3D ad in front of Burj Khalifa
Next level gaming
BMW driver…
Google testing journalism AI. We are doing it already 2 years, and without Google biased propoganda and manipulated censorship
Unlike illegal imigrants coming by boats - US Citizens Will Need Visa To Travel To Europe in 2024
Musk announces Twitter name and logo change to X.com
The politician and the journalist lost control and started fighting on live broadcast.
The future of sports
Unveiling the Black Hole: The Mysterious Fate of EU's Aid to Ukraine
Farewell to a Music Titan: Tony Bennett, Renowned Jazz and Pop Vocalist, Passes Away at 96
Alarming Behavior Among Florida's Sharks Raises Concerns Over Possible Cocaine Exposure
Transgender Exclusion in Miss Italy Stirs Controversy Amidst Changing Global Beauty Pageant Landscape
Joe Biden admitted, in his own words, that he delivered what he promised in exchange for the $10 million bribe he received from the Ukraine Oil Company.
TikTok Takes On Spotify And Apple, Launches Own Music Service
Global Trend: Using Anti-Fake News Laws as Censorship Tools - A Deep Dive into Tunisia's Scenario
Arresting Putin During South African Visit Would Equate to War Declaration, Asserts President Ramaphosa
Hacktivist Collective Anonymous Launches 'Project Disclosure' to Unearth Information on UFOs and ETIs
Typo sends millions of US military emails to Russian ally Mali
Server Arrested For Theft After Refusing To Pay A Table's $100 Restaurant Bill When They Dined & Dashed
The Changing Face of Europe: How Mass Migration is Reshaping the Political Landscape
China Urges EU to Clarify Strategic Partnership Amid Trade Tensions
The Last Pour: Anchor Brewing, America's Pioneer Craft Brewer, Closes After 127 Years
Democracy not: EU's Digital Commissioner Considers Shutting Down Social Media Platforms Amid Social Unrest
Sarah Silverman and Renowned Authors Lodge Copyright Infringement Case Against OpenAI and Meta
Why Do Tech Executives Support Kennedy Jr.?
The New York Times Announces Closure of its Sports Section in Favor of The Athletic
BBC Anchor Huw Edwards Hospitalized Amid Child Sex Abuse Allegations, Family Confirms
Florida Attorney General requests Meta CEO's testimony on company's platforms' alleged facilitation of illicit activities
The Distorted Mirror of actual approval ratings: Examining the True Threat to Democracy Beyond the Persona of Putin
40,000 child slaves in Congo are forced to work in cobalt mines so we can drive electric cars.
×